The consequences of climate change on urban security

September 2022 – The record temperatures that caused severe drought and wildfires across Europe last summer have once again highlighted the climate emergency, which particularly affects cities as they are on average warmer by 5ºC to 9ºC than rural areas.1

Last year, during our Security, Democracy and Cities conference (October 2021), many Efus member cities said they found themselves on the frontline in managing climate catastrophes. In particular, cities in Belgium and Germany had been faced with the summer 2021 floods, and the City of Nice and its surrounding localities were still reeling from the October 2020 Storm Alex. The conference featured a workshop on this issue titled Climate change and urban security – how to foster urban resilience?

Little research on the links between climate change and urban security

In the past few years, European cities have adopted resilience and adaptation strategies while the European Union, as part of its Green Deal to reach net zero by 2050, has set the objective of reaching 100 climate-neutral cities by 2030.

However, not much research and means have yet been dedicated to exploring the impact of the climate crisis on urban security even though studies conducted in particular in North and South America have evidenced, in the affected zones, links between climate catastrophes and the rise of some forms of crime such as domestic violence[2] and crime against property. It is for this reason that Efus set up a working group on this issue in December 2021. It gathers a dozen members, including the cities of Mannheim (DE), Lisbon (PT) and Gyongyos (HU) as well as the German Forum (DEFUS) and the Canadian Municipal Network on Crime Prevention. The group meets at least every two months with the objective of understanding the impacts of climate change and its effects on urban security through the contribution of experts and exchanges with existing networks and European local and regional authorities.  

Efus’ position

Efus has laid out its position, its recommendations and its members’ commitments [nb1] on the issue of climate change in a document meant to complement the Security, Democracy and Cities Manifesto, which summarises the network’s founding principles. Efus calls for studying the effects of the climate crisis on urban security and identifying the most vulnerable urban areas (such as urban heat islands and flood zones), while taking into account social and economic data and crime rates. Such mapping would reveal potential urban hotspots that are most exposed to risks linked to climate change and urban security issues.

To this end, the working group is analysing the existing academic literature and gathering information among its member cities with the objective of helping local and regional authorities to adapt their climate change strategies and incorporate the urban security dimension.

Adapting public spaces

Efus calls for strengthening cooperation between urban security and urban development services in order to design climate change adaptation measures, especially concerning public spaces, that take crime prevention into account.

Taking into account vulnerable groups of population

The working group is also looking at local authorities’ emergency and evacuation plans to check if they include the specific needs of the most vulnerable groups of population. Indeed, many non-governmental organisations have raised the alarm on this since the 2005 Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, which hit particularly hard the city’s most deprived communities (homeless people, migrants, non-English speakers…).

> Efus position on climate change2

> Please contact us if you would like to join our working group: Julia Rettig, Programme Manager –

1 Source: United Nations environment programme

2 See for example this article from the United Nations: Climate Change Increases the Risk of Violence Against Women