Planning will reduce the impact of climate change on health, energy supplies, transport systems, farming and tourism.
In 2007, an international group of scientists published the most detailed summary of climate change so far, warning of drought, shrinking food production, coastal erosion, floods and more.
But recent research suggests that climate change will strike harder and faster than they thought. Weather-related disasters such as droughts and floods will become more common, while some crops will no longer survive in areas where they have traditionally grown. While developing countries may be the hardest hit, Europe will not escape unscathed.
The commission is proposing that EU member countries start to think now about how to adapt to climate change. While national and regional authorities will have to change their infrastructures, the EU’s role will be to ensure that countries, businesses and communities work together to achieve the best possible results.
“We must continue to work hard to reduce carbon emissions, but we must also adapt to the reality of climate change. There is no doubt that despite what is achieved, some amount of climate change is inevitable and irreversible," said the EU’s environment commissioner, Stavros Dimas.
If we are to adapt to a different climate, a clearer idea of what to expect is needed. The commission proposal recommends studies to increase understanding of climate change. It also calls for strategies to manage resources better, an assessment of the costs and benefits of adapting to climate change and reliable tools to monitor how the changing environment affects health.
The proposal also outlines plans for a ‘clearing house mechanism’ to be set up by 2011 – a vast database for exchanging information on climate change risks and impacts and the most effective ways to respond.