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„Experience tells us to keep it up“

Theresa Ramisch

Jana Leoni studied Landscape Architecture at the TU Dresden and urban design at the TU Berlin. She worked for Albert Speer + Partner, among others, before joining the City of Frankfurt. Here she was deputy Head of the Urban Climate/Climate Change Department at the Frankfurt Environment Department for two years and moved to the Frankfurt Climate Department when it was founded.

Jana Leoni studied Landscape Architecture at the TU Dresden and urban design at the TU Berlin. She worked for Albert Speer + Partner, among others, before joining the City of Frankfurt. Here she was deputy Head of the Urban Climate/Climate Change Department at the Frankfurt Environment Department for two Years and moved to the Frankfurt Climate Department when it was founded.

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Climate-neutral by 2035 – the city of Frankfurt has set itself ambitious goals and established its own climate department to achieve them. It began its work in January 2023. Jana Leoni is part of the 21-headed climate department team. We spoke to the urban planner about bureaucracy in planning and asked her how well Frankfurt is positioned in terms of municipal instruments in her opinion.

The interview was conducted and published in June 2023!

5 questions for Jana Leoni, Climate Department Frankfurt

Jana Leoni, at the beginning of the year, Frankfurt city councillors set a clear national example by making the greening of facades and roofs mandatory for new buildings and conversions. They also declared war on gravel gardens. A success? Or do you think more is needed?

The design statute “Open space and climate” and the accompanying information brochure are not only intended to shape building law, but also to provide assistance for climate-adapted construction. After all, just like a gravel garden, an unplanted flat roof, an unplanted façade or a treeless property that drains into the sewer also represents a wasted opportunity for a better urban climate. And this is precisely what needs to be communicated and everyone involved in the construction project needs to be aware of this. Of course, changes also need to be made to existing buildings. Here, Frankfurt is helping private applicants to make the climate-adapted design of their properties as simple and attractive as possible with the “Frankfurt Frischt auf – 50 % Klimabonus” funding program.

In the eyes of many, complex bureaucratic processes in Germany’s municipalities often make it difficult to implement innovative projects quickly. How do you see this? Do we need less bureaucracy to combat climate change and heat?

Criticism often overlooks the complexity of the requirements. In Frankfurt, however, the processes are nonetheless running smoothly. The building inspectorate is quick and efficient when it comes to project approval. If you are interested, there is also the option of climate consulting with our team, quickly and unbureaucratically. The handling of consultations and funding allocations in our funding program is also subject to a streamlined, uncomplicated procedure. The process is constantly being optimized and, according to the plan, digitalized.

The complexity of the issues applies even more to public spaces. Nevertheless, once a measure or program has proven itself, it generally works very well. For example, the drinking fountain programme, which has picked up speed after a long start-up phase and is now being implemented fountain by fountain. In the streets, there are more and more flowering islands on former traffic areas and the sponge city theme is taken into account in all new planning. So experience tells us to “keep at it”. And we in the climate department are personally committed to implementing great innovative ideas as unbureaucratically as possible.

How many technical options does the municipality of Frankfurt have to prevent the heat island effect? In other words, how well is Frankfurt positioned in terms of municipal instruments? Where do you see room for improvement?

There are already a number of existing instruments, such as the “Frankfurt Adaptation Strategy 2.0” or the “Climate-adapted urban square design” guidelines. The guideline was based on the planning for the redesign of Paul-Arnsberg-Platz, which is now the first square in Frankfurt to be redesigned in a climate-adapted way. Another one is currently being planned. As a city and together with the private sector, we can achieve a lot with tools like these.

The state of Hesse published the Hessian Heat Action Plan this February. How important is this for your work?

The Hessian Heat Action Plan shows that long-term preparation for a heat event is just as essential as concrete measures for acute heat events. In Frankfurt, the long-term measures are regulated in the adaptation strategy. A “Climate Change Action Plan” (KWAP) is dedicated to acute measures. The city wants to be comprehensively prepared for all extreme weather situations – heat, drought, storms and flooding – in order to protect people, animals, plants and infrastructure in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt am Main wants to be climate-neutral by 2035. Your department was set up in part to support this goal. In your opinion, where does Frankfurt currently stand in terms of climate neutrality? What are the biggest challenges?

Even without mentioning the current figures, one thing is certain: we still have a long way to go, which we want to cover in a short, intensive period of time. A major, but also positive, challenge is to recognize the potential and to determine and implement the most effective measures. Solar installations on buildings and open spaces, a mobility turnaround and a turnaround in the construction and real estate sector, the use of renewable energies and waste heat are currently considered to be the most effective strategies that need to be implemented as a priority in the coming years. “Calculated climate neutrality” also includes the goal of a liveable, climate-change resilient city of Frankfurt. Our current 21-man team, led by Hans-Georg Dannert, is looking forward to these challenges and is ready and eager to take this path together with the administration and urban society as a whole.

 

Published as part of the international Beat the Heat initiative.

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