The historic and unique city of Venice is a cultural capital famous for its lagoon, water-filled streets and gondolas. As an important site for culture, arts and crafts, industry and tourism, it is one of Italy’s most important cities. But it is also a sinking city.
One of the busiest ports in the Mediterranean, storm surges, coastal flooding and sea-level rise is putting Venice at risk, and are already causing damage to residential and commercial areas and disrupting public services in this historic city.
Forging urban resilience
As the city has always been highly sensitive to the tides, the City of Venice manages a special High Tides Centre, which provides daily forecasts and alerts by email, smartphone app, text messages and alarm sirens. The city also has special pathways raised from the ground that allow people to move around when the tide is high.
A few years ago this may have been enough, but now further adaptation is now needed.
A complex infrastructure project called the MOSE is currently underway to protect Venice from sea surges and coastal flooding. Its rows of mobile gates will ‘close’ the lagoon at high tide, blocking the sea from surging into the city. The project is around 80% complete, due to be completed in 2022.
The MOSE is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in the country, but it still only represents a small fraction of the estimated 50 million euros of infrastructure spending needed per year to maintain the city in the face of environmental impacts.
While protecting against climate and water risks is critical, the city is also keen to use climate action to develop its economy and Venice has joined the Global Covenant of Mayors and set a climate target to reduce emissions by 23% by 2020 compared to 2005 levels; with efficiency key.
Urban planning and building codes now mandate a certain level of energy efficiency, and the city has upgraded streetlights and traffic lights to LEDs to reduce emissions.
While Venice still gets two thirds of its energy from coal and oil, it is leading the way on resource efficiency. All buildings have mandatory water meters, and no waste goes to landfill. Instead almost all municipal waste is recycled, composted or used in waste-to-energy plants.
This puts Venice in a strong position to develop the circular economy, bringing economic opportunities as part of the low-carbon transition.
Updated September 2017