Climate change adaptation lessons learned from Norway

Study trips to Bergen and Western Norway during April and May 2022

Representatives of the eight partner municipalities under project “Implementation of innovative measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation measures in municipalities in the Republic of Bulgaria” under the Environmental Protection and Climate Change Program of the European Economic Area (EEA) paid a visit to Bergen and Western Norway within 26-30.04.2022 and 09-13.05.2022. The groups included the expert teams of the partner municipalities – Burgas, Varna., Kardzhali, Plovdiv, Ruse, Sliven, Sofia and Stara Zagora, as well as representatives of NTEF and of the advisory team.

The Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) and the Western Norway Research Institute (WNRI) were hosts and organizers of the program in Bergen and Western Norway.

The purpose of the visit was on-site familiarization with the work of the Norwegian municipalities in the climate change adaptation field, as well as with concrete projects, which had been implemented or were currently being executed.

The two groups had a practically identical program, which included lectures aimed at presenting the experience of the Norwegian state institutions and municipal authorities in the area of climate change adaptation. The main risks and threats for Norway, on which the strategic adaptation measures are focused, address the heavy rainfalls that are taking place more frequently in the recent years, as well as the subsequent floods and landslides.

From the national institutions, the two groups visited the Regional Office of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) in Førde. The country’s water resources represent the most valuable energy source. More than 95% of electricity is produced from water. The NVE regional manager Aart Verhage familiarized the participants with role played by the Directorate, namely related to the development of the methodology for strategic planning and management of the water resources in the municipalities. The most important message for the Bulgarian participants was that the decisions and measures are taken and implemented on the spot, based on the specific conditions. The Agency prepares the relevant maps, which are publicly available, but the concrete information is provided on the site.

Both groups also visited a site, where the implementation of relatively small corrections of the riverbed had resulted in the avoidance of floods and landslides which have been occurring in the recent past. The main cause of these disasters has not been the large water volume running into the steep river, but rather the water speed. Therefore, the concrete solution is riverbed corrections, through which the speed of the water is killed before it reaches the streets and houses of the settlement.

A key host of the groups during both visits was the Bergen Municipality. It is the second biggest municipality in Norway (after Oslo), which is managed by a local parliament and a local government consisting of relevant agencies. The participants had a working meeting with representatives of three of these agencies: the Climate Agency, represented by the Director Stina Oseland; the Water Authorities represented by Hogne Hjelle and the Urban Development Department submitted by Tale Halsør. The strategies and the principles of the planning of climate change adaptation measures were presented with regard to several focuses: stormwater management in cases of heavy rainfalls; development of urban blue-green infrastructure; overall planning of the climate change adaptation actions.

In Bergen, the participants in study trips visited sites of “reopening” of  “covered” years ago rivers and the shaping of the river flows as park areas, using appropriate means and plant species to strike a balance between people and nature.

Interesting sites were the two “green” roofs, which besides absorbing rain water and being a natural conditioner for the buildings, are also used as a vegetable garden for local restaurants.

The participants were also interested in the “rain garden” in the old part of Bergen city, which is an UNESCO site. A small area is shaped involving construction of the relevant drainage systems and is planted with appropriate plants to absorb a large portion of the stormwater, which is caused by heavy rains. The aim of the garden facility is to provide protection against flooding of the wooden houses, located in the lower part of the hill and threatened by flooding from the abundant rainfalls, which have been happening more frequently during the recent years as a result of the climate change.

Both groups visited the orchards of Ivar Petter Grøtte – head of the research activities at the Western Norway Research Institute. There, the participants got familiarized with the technical solutions, which protect the suburban areas against landslides and floods.

All of the participants were extremely active during the meetings and visits and received answers, containing the smallest details. They shared their satisfaction with the visit, thanked for the provided materials and publications and explained that the experience they had gained would be used when designing the investment measures under the project.