Bilbao is the capital of the province of Biscay in the Spanish Basque Country, and has 345 122 inhabitants (EUSTAT, 2016). Its population has fallen in recent decades, and, like many European cities, it is rapidly ageing. This has led to a number of challenges.
The city runs along the Bilbao estuary, which extends from the southeast to the northwest and is surrounded by two mountain ranges that run parallel to the waterway. The mountain ranges are highest in the west, where they reach 700 m, before falling to 300 m in the east.
The climate of Bilbao is classified as temperate maritime, with some specific characteristics due to its urban nature as well as the influence from the sea, mountains, and valleys (Acero, 2015; Millán, 1984). It is one of the few cities in Europe to have created a Local Climate Zone map and to have conducted research on urban thermal outdoor comfort.
Projections from climate-change models underline Bilbao's high vulnerability to floods, air pollution, and stress from heat and cold.
The city is currently revising its urban Master Plan, which aims to make Bilbao i) an example for other cities around the world; ii) a city in continuous renewal; iii) a sustainable city; and iv) a socially balanced city.
Extreme climate events in the recent – and not-so recent – past have shown that Bilbao is more vulnerable than most other cities. This realisation prompted scientific research into how the city could plan for sustainable development and prepare itself for further climate-change risks.
This resulted in the city authorities drawing up a list of the following priorities for Bilbao: an energy-efficiency policy; sustainable mobility; reducing resource consumption and waste generation; smart and creative urban planning; and a strategy for adapting to climate change.
NBS could play a role in this plan by helping to make Bilbao more resilient towards cold spells, heat waves, and frequent floods.
NBS1 - Zorrotzaurre project - The Zorrotzaurre project is an urban renewal project to promote the sustainable restoration of a currently derelict site in the Zorrotzaurre peninsula, northwest of the city centre. The plan is to create a new quarter that is well-connected to the rest of the city, with affordable housing, environmentally-friendly business areas, social and cultural facilities, and spacious green areas for recreation. The Master Plan was designed by the architect Zaha Hadid, and includes the conversion of the current Zorrotzaurre peninsula into an island by opening up the Deusto Canal. The plan foresees a total surface of 673 000 m2 and includes flood prevention measures, a transport network, and restoration of the area's cultural heritage.
NBS2 – Bilbao Greenbelt Expansion - The Bilbao Greenbelt project aims to expand and connect the city's green areas. It has already led to 1 million extra square metres of green areas in Bilbao in the last 10 years. The project aims to create a network linking the peripheral green belt with urban parks and other green areas inside the city.
Both projects have been successful in bringing climate-change mitigation and adaptation concerns into urban planning. They have also influenced local policy and the revision of the Master Plan, which is due for preliminary approval in 2018.
The Zorrotzaurre project and the Greenbelt Expansion are NBS that will greatly improve the city's resilience to climate change. They will also foster social and economic cohesion, well-being, health, and leisure opportunities, and make the city more attractive for residents and visitors.
Funded by the EU's FP7 programme, the European research project RAMSES focused on helping cities to adapt to climate change and become more sustainable. The scientific evidence, methodologies and tools produced by RAMSES has greatly helped Bilbao's urban planning framework. It is now influencing the revision of the city's Master Plan, which is due to be approved in 2018.
- Local authorities clearly understand that NBS projects have multiple benefits. This is evident in Bilbao's upcoming Master Plan, which strongly promotes NBS as a means of achieving the city's four main objectives.
- Having a local project partner contact made the relationship between the RAMSES FP7 project and the local authority much easier.
- Bilbao's history of successfully managing severe crises with commitment and creativity has helped it to adopt innovative measures.
The local authorities promote stakeholder and citizen participation in urban-planning decisions, but these participatory processes have not yet been formalised.
Some outcomes of the RAMSES project have helped to improve participatory planning and governance. These outcomes include the Transition Handbook and Training Package, the Spread Sheet Dialogue, and the stakeholder workshops and webinars.
There is no objective quantification of the size of the new 'green' economy that could be created in Bilbao. However, it is likely that a number of new companies and job opportunities will emerge as a result of the broader implementation of NBS. This process will be assisted by new software and academic methodologies to help the integration of NBS into the decision-making process.
Economic constraints are the major factor that limits the adoption of NBS in Bilbao.
In addition, local technical staff have little time available to collaborate in EU-level research projects. Another limiting factor is that even though the city was a partner in EU research projects, this has not incentivised it to subsequently apply for funds to implement the project's findings.
The city's interest in NBS-related measures was already evident in its participation in the FP7 projects Econadapt and RAMSES and in the H2020 project RESIN, in which it was a case study. These projects also raised awareness in local authorities about the importance of networking and co-creation.
Consistent monitoring and evaluation has not yet been implemented. Nevertheless, as a result of the RAMSES project, Bilbao now has the background information needed to establish a monitoring and evaluation system.
The revision of Bilbao's Master Plan, which will guide the city's development over the next decade, recognises the positive impact of the RAMSES project. As this FP7 project had a team located in Bilbao, and established a close relationship with city authorities and technical staff, it has been possible to put the RAMSES achievements into practice.
Acero, J.A; Katzschner, L. (2015). Urban Climatic map studies in Spain, Bilbao in Edward Ng, Chao Ren (ed.) The Urban Climatic Map: A Methodology for Sustainable Urban Planning, pg. 315-323.
Acero, J. A., Santa Coloma, O., Albizu, M., Castillo, C. and Barquin, M. (2005). Risk of episodes in the Basque Country. Paper presented at the 5th International Conference on Air Quality. Valencia, Spain, 29–31 March.
Acero, J. A., Zeberio, U., Azkune, S. and Santa Coloma, O. (2007). Air quality levels in the Basque Country (Spain): Source contribution and meteorology influence. Paper presented at the 6th International Conference on Urban Air Quality. Nicosia, Cyprus, 27–29 March.
Acero, J. A., Arrizabalaga, J., Kupski, S. and Katzschner, L. (2013a). Urban heat island in a coastal urban area in northern Spain. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 113(1–2): 137–154. doi: 10.1007/s00704-012-0774-z.
Acero, J. A., Arrizabalaga, J., Kupski, S. and Katzschner, L. (2013b). Deriving an Urban Climate Map in
coastal areas with complex terrain in the Basque Country (Spain). Urban Climate, 4: 35–60. doi: 10.1016/j. uclim.2013.02.002.
Millan, M., Alonso, L., Legarreta, J., Albizu, M., Ureta, I. and Egusquiaguirre, C. (1984). A fumigation episode in an industrialized estuary: Bilbao, November 1981. Atmospheric Environment, 18(3): 563–572.
Millan, M., Otamendi, E., Alonso, L, and Ureta, I. (1987). Experimental characterization of atmospheric diffusion in complex terrain with land-sea interactions. JAPCA, 37(7): 807–811.
Zorraquino, J. (1971). Datos y comentarios sobre la Contaminación del Aire en Erandio (Bilbao) en 1969. DYNA, 1: 19–29.
European Commission financed FP7 project RAMSES and authored by VITO and Tecnalia as D4.1 “Validation of agglomeration-scale climate projections” (2014).
European Commission financed FP7 project RAMSES and authored by VITO and Tecnalia as D4.2 “Agglomeration-scale urban climate and air quality projections” (2015).
European Commission financed FP7 project RAMSES and authored by NTNU and Tecnalia (2014).
European Commission financed FP7 project ECONADAPT and authored by Paolo Scussolini (VUA), Kateřina Kaprová and Jan Melichar (CUNI), Elisa Sainz de Murieta (BC3), Ibon Galarraga (BC3), Manuel Lago, Josselin Rouillard; Jenny Troeltzsch (ECOLOGIC INSTITUTE)
European Commission financed FP7 project ECONADAPT and authored by Paolo Scussolini (VUA), Kateřina Kaprová and Jan Melichar (CUNI), Elisa Sainz de Murieta (BC3), Alina Tepes (BC3), Ibon Galarraga (BC3), Josselin Rouillard, Jenny Troeltzsch and Manuel Lago (ECOLOGIC INSTITUT)
European Commission financed FP7 project RAMSES and authored by NTNU and Tecnalia as D4.3 “Urban Adaptation effects on Urban Climate” (2016).
European Commission financed FP7 project RAMSES and authored by NTNU (2014).
AZTI Tecnalia (2011).
European Commission financed FP7 project RAMSES and authored by LSE & SENECA as D5.1 (2014).
European Commission financed FP7 project RAMSES and authored by UVSQ as D7.1 (2014).
Main FP7-RAMSES and H2020-RESIN contributions for BILBAO