ATHENS, GREECE— July 23, 2021— Today, from City Hall in Athens, steps from the Acropolis, Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis delivered on his commitment as a founding member of City Champions for Heat Action (CCHA) by naming Europe’s first Chief Heat Officer, appointing urban climate resilience veteran Eleni Myrivili to the post. CCHA is a cornerstone initiative of the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance (EHRA) – spearheaded by the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock), a global team committed to providing one billion people with resilience solutions by 2030.
Today’s announcement coincides with the endorsement of heat action and community protection from the mayors of Glasgow, Paris, Rotterdam, and Seville. These cities along with US cities including Los Angeles, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Madison will focus on adaptation to climate-driven extreme heat alongside Arsht-Rock and the founding member-cities of Athens, Miami-Dade County, and Freetown. As global temperature records shatter, member cities receive critically important technical assistance from EHRA; a ready-to-implement roadmap for decision-makers to reduce the risk of heat to their most vulnerable citizens; and connection to a network of global cities working to address heat risks. The international scale of these endorsements signals the growing urgency for local governments to dedicate resources to combat the growing risks and impacts of extreme heat, especially for their most vulnerable communities.
“I have a vision for a cooler, greener Athens,” said Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis. “Climate change for our city means more frequent and dangerous extreme high temperatures for residents and for tourists who are critical for our economy. Unfortunately, Athens is not unique – heat is an emergency for cities across Europe and the world. Joining City Champions for Heat Action will help me accelerate the protection of vulnerable people and find the best cooling solutions for long-term health and wellbeing.”
Mayor Bakoyannis’s landmark appointment of Eleni Myrivili follows Miami-Dade County’s appointment of interim Chief Heat Officer Jane Gilbert—the first such appointment globally. Myrivili will coordinate with Athens’ interdepartmental municipal team on Climate Adaptation, elevate extreme heat as a priority issue through media and other communication channels, and create a city-wide heat health task force. Myrivili currently serves as Senior Advisor to the City of Athens for Resilience and Sustainability, a Senior Fellow at Arsht-Rock, and a co-chair of the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance Policy Working Group and the Steering Committee of the Resilient Cities Network. She previously served as an elected Athens’ Deputy Mayor for Urban Nature and Climate Resilience, pioneering multimillion-euro programs in equitable blue and green infrastructure development.“
Mayor Bakoyannis realizes the gravity of the situation and is mobilizing international support for addressing it,” said Myrivili. “I am honored to serve as Europe’s first Chief Heat Officer and look forward to raising awareness among the citizens of Athens about the grave dangers of extreme heat and helping decision-makers take action to cool the city and protect people and their communities. We’ve been talking about global warming for decades, but we haven’t talked much about heat.”
“I am honored to serve as Europe’s first Chief Heat Officer and look forward to raising awareness among the citizens of Athens about the grave dangers of extreme heat and helping decision-makers take action to cool the city and protect people and their communities.”
Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, endorsed Mayor Bakoyannis’ action, saying, “Extreme heat is becoming the new standard in urban environments and now occurs with a dramatic frequency. Devastating heatwaves remove any doubt that climate change affects all of our lives. There is an urgent need to strengthen the actions taken in cities to address extreme heat and prevent this silent killer from causing more deaths. This is the meaning of my commitment as mayor of Paris. I also strongly support the City Champions for Heat Action initiative from the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center and the actions promoted by the Mayor of Athens in Europe to tackle this life-threatening issue and protect all inhabitants.”
Climate change is causing global temperatures to rise, resulting in life-threatening heat waves and record highs that have devastating long-term consequences. 104,000 heat-related deaths were recorded in 2018 amongst the EU’s elderly population, over one-third of the global total. July 2021 has already broken heat records across Europe, from Germany, Poland, France, and Spain to more northern locations such as Finland and Norway, where physical infrastructure is not well adapted to extreme heat. The Pacific Northwest of the US and Canada also experienced a heatwave this month that claimed more than 900 lives. No continent has gone unscathed, and research shows that sweltering conditions will continue to increase in severity.“
The dangers of rising temperatures are underrepresented in the world of climate risks and impacts. Extreme heat is killing more people across the globe than any other climate-driven hazard,” said Kathy Baughman McLeod, SVP & Director of the Arsht-Rock Resilience Center at the Atlantic Council. “Vulnerable city dwellers often face the worst of extreme heat, but the right solutions and coordination can mitigate the impacts. We’re thrilled to have had the privilege to convene EHRA and City Champions for Heat Action to bring scalable solutions to Athens and other cities around the globe facing this growing crisis.”
“We’re thrilled to have had the privilege to convene EHRA and City Champions for Heat Action to bring scalable solutions to Athens and other cities around the globe facing this growing crisis.”
CCHA is also partnering with the World Economic Forum’s Commission of BiodiverCities by 2030, a global initiative launched by the President of Colombia and the WEF to develop resilient, prosperous, and equitable cities that live in harmony with nature.
An Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance member, Athens is one of the core cities taking on heat resilience. In 2017, Athens launched its Resilience Strategy for 2030, which placed special focus on heat adaptation, aiming to protect the city’s most at-risk groups through various methods, including increasing green areas and shade options, expanding the use of cool materials, and promoting “cooling routes” in parts of the city where the urban heat island effect is more intense. An existing tool addressing the vulnerability caused by extreme heat is a smartphone app, Extrema Global, which provides personalized information to city residents and visitors about their heat-health risks. It uses real-time meteorological data for specific geolocation and directions to the nearest cooling spaces. The app, first developed in Athens, has been adopted by Paris, Rotterdam, Milan, and Mallorca and is being scaled across additional global cities. Athens also announced the launch of a major program that increases the quantity and quality of green space and canopy in the city.
Today’s announcements mark the launch of the Arsht-Rock global #HeatSeason campaign in Europe translated into five languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Greek. Join us by following @ArshtRock and @AltanticCouncil and using #HeatSeason across all social media channels.