With the high temperatures of this infernal summer, a term that until recently was only used by climatologists and urban planners is becoming popular: climate refuge.
Despite the fact that large cities in America and Europe have a signposted network of spaces where you can take shelter, in Spain they are more an idea than a reality.
They only exist in Barcelona, which was a pioneer in 2019, and in Bilbao since this year;
Seville has enabled three civic centers and Vitoria, Malaga and Murcia have them in the pipeline.
In Madrid, on the other hand, both the Community and the capital have just rejected its implementation.
When the concept and its authorship arose “it is something that is lost in time”, says climatologist Javier Martín Vide, professor of Physical Geography at the University of Barcelona.
In the eighties, cities in Germany and Canada "already had in mind to plan green corridors to ventilate them" and garden cities of England were created.
None of these precedents "were designed for a climatic emergency situation like the current one, but there was an awareness of designing a more fluffy city."
“Now we are in a very different moment and what it is about is adapting in the best possible way to the unstoppable increase in temperatures, with 40 ° installed day after day in much of Spain, already extreme as heat waves , more and more intense and frequent”, points out the expert.
Residents of the Torreblanca neighborhood in Seville within the civic center of the area. PACO PUENTES
Martín Vide defines them as places to spend the central hours of the day in the best possible way, both indoors and outdoors.
Among the first, public buildings, civic centers, libraries, schools or even private centers with a maximum temperature of 26° and available water.
Among the latter, parks with plenty of shade, trees, fountains and sheets of water.
In fact, they have always existed - The Generalife is eight centuries old - and any shopping center fulfills these functions, the key is that they are identified so that the citizen knows where to go and that "not far away", since if you have to walk too much “you can get heat stroke and the shelter becomes a trap”.
The Climate Leadership Group
C40 ―network of large cities against the climate crisis to which Madrid and Barcelona belong― recommends its implementation and that they be made known "before and during a heat wave through billboards, telephone applications or SMS".
Outside of Spain, Paris launched its islands of freshness in 2018, Toronto, New York and Washington DC already have these spaces and Joe Biden has announced an extraordinary budget for “fresh shelters”.
In Spain, its development is contemplated within the PIMA Adapta plan of the Ministry of Ecological Transition, which makes nine million euros available to the communities for these or other adaptation projects.
The first city to create a network was Barcelona, in 2019, and this summer it has expanded to 202 points in the city and 50 in the metropolitan area.
The objective is that the entire population is less than 10 minutes walk from one of these oases located even in monasteries.
Eloi Badia, Councilor for Climate Emergency, explains that in June, July and September it covers 95% of the population, a figure that drops to 80% in August because, by closing some buildings for vacations, they stay at 140 and some of them with reduced hours, which has motivated the ERC complaint.
It is not about just putting stickers on pre-existing spaces: the plan contemplates their conditioning with drinking water points, more vegetation and an improvement in the insulation of the buildings.
The meaning of signaling them, on maps that are distributed at key points such as libraries, is that "the population knows that they have them" and the next step is to extend the network to the entire metropolitan area.
"Our feeling is that they are being very well received," Badia underlines.
Map of the network of indoor climate shelters in Bilbao. BILBAO CITY COUNCIL
Only one city, Bilbao, has followed suit: since this July a network of 64 indoor and 66 outdoor shelters has been in operation.
reports Javier Martín-Arroyo
, the City Council has set up this week, at the request of residents, three civic centers -Torreblanca, El Esqueleto del Polígono Sur and Su Eminencia- as shelters in neighborhoods with a vulnerable population that also suffers from power cuts. of light.
They are buildings that opened in the morning and now also in the afternoon.
The City Council clarifies that they will only work on days with warnings due to high temperatures and if its inhabitants request it.
It is not planned to expand their number or establish a network.
"The neighbors want to be in their homes and there are no cuts," says the Consistory.
In Malaga, the City Council approved in April the creation of "microoases" and "climate-controlled tours" to "prepare the city for extreme episodes."
At the moment without materializing, Vitoria raised an initiative a year ago to signpost shelters and adapt the roads that lead to them, with routes that do not exceed one kilometer and in the shade or near parks or streams.
In Murcia, at the end of July, it was fully approved to implement shaded pedestrian itineraries between neighborhoods and nerve centers of the city and its districts and to prepare outdoor spaces and in municipal and private premises.
In the Community of Madrid, the Assembly rejected in June, with the votes of PP and Vox, the proposal of Más Madrid to create a network in public facilities.
The deputy spokesman for Vox, Íñigo Henríquez de Luna, accused the "climate apologists" of "inventing climate change, which is valid for both cold and heat."
The City Council of the capital does not plan to create a signposted network either, although it was agreed, also at the proposal of Más Madrid, in the plenary session on June 28.
"The agreements are not binding," explain municipal sources, who refer to what was stated in said plenary session by Borja Carabante, Environment delegate.
A man reads a notice indicating the closure of the El Retiro park, in Madrid, on Sunday, July 31. FERNANDO ALVARADO (EFE)
Carabante defended that it is not necessary because Madrid "has an extraordinary green infrastructure and extraordinary municipal facilities open to everyone, even if there is no sticker" and stressed that it is "the second city in the world in terms of tree-lined heritage, the first in Europe".
However, from April to June nine parks have been closed six times in application of the municipal protocol for adverse weather situations.
Martín Vide considers it reasonable “on windy winter days”, with about 70 kilometers per hour, “but not on hot days”.
The protocol establishes the closure with forecasts of gusts of 55 if there are more than 35 °.
Given the inaction of the authorities and after the death of a sweeper, two spaces offer shelter to those who work outdoors: the Pacific market and the Barrio Theater.
This climatologist calls on all cities to join these initiatives now "because the summer of 2023 may not be worse than 2022, but the trend is clear and we have to be prepared."
For Martín Vide, the great challenge is the night, because the shelters work during the day and tropical nights have become widespread.
Faced with this situation, he calls for "a policy for the rehabilitation of houses with thermal insulation and social and health actions, with teams of social and health workers who visit people in a situation of energy poverty to explain how to defend themselves through hydration and ventilation."
Furthermore, in the US "they are already thinking of refuge cities."
There he points to the Great Lakes and, in Spain, Martín Vide does it "to the Bay of Biscay and to the most Atlantic Galicia".
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