Action pour le climat

Europe is ready for climate impacts: Commission evaluates its strategy

12/11/2018

Adapting the EU regions and economic sectors to the impacts of climate change is now more urgent than forecast in the EU’s 2013 adaptation strategy. This is one of the key findings of the Commission’s evaluation of the strategy published today. The analysis results in a report on lessons learned and reflections on improvements for future action.

In the context of the Paris Agreement and EU climate and energy policies, the EU needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the ongoing global warming. The urgency of global climate action was further highlighted by the international scientific community in the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which announced that temperatures have already risen 1°C because of human activity, and the planet could pass the 1.5°C threshold as early as 2030 if emissions continue at the current rate.

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: “Our collective work on adaptation has shown we not only know more but can also do more to prevent the worst climate impacts projected by 2050. The need to adapt remains and it has actually grown, as impacts of past emissions unfold through heatwaves, storms, forest fires at high latitudes or destructive floods. This evaluation provides a credible basis for the EU policy on adaptation to explore new directions, improvements and also alignment with international developments since 2013.”

The EU’s 2013 strategy on adaptation to climate change aimed to make Europe more climate-resilient, focusing on three key objectives: promoting action by Member States, ‘climate-proofing’ action at EU level and supporting better-informed decision-making.

The evaluation shows that the strategy has delivered on its objectives, with progress recorded against each of its eight individual actions, such as the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, the development of the online platform Climate-ADAPT and the climate-proofing of key EU policies. The report, nevertheless, outlines how Europe is still vulnerable to climate impacts within and outside its borders. The Commission’s PESETA III project has identified a range of those impacts in Europe and provided some insights into socio-economic consequences and adaptation options.

Since 2013 it has become clearer that international climate action, as enshrined in the 2015 Paris Agreement, must acknowledge and tackle ongoing and projected impacts at 1.5°C or 2°C global warming levels.

Adaptation can and should be a powerful ally of sustainable development and disaster risk reduction efforts. EU policy must seek to create synergies between the three policies to avoid future damage and provide for long-term economic and social welfare in Europe and in partner countries.

Key findings:

  • The current strategy is still relevant and the Commission will be guided by its objectives. Important lessons have been learned in the evaluation process. The strategy has been a reference point to prepare Europe for the climate impacts to come, at all levels.
  • Knowledge, adaptation modelling and region-specific intelligence has been generated by the EU's Horizon 2020 research programme and projects and by the Commission’s own internal scientific services (Joint Research Centre).
  • Major infrastructure projects financed by the EU budget have become climate-proof and will withstand sea level rise, flooding or intense heat.
  • In the future, an effort must be made to ensure most or all EU cities count on a thorough adaptation plan to protect citizens from both extreme and slow-onset climate hazards. The plans should also cater for specific vulnerabilities of certain communities (e.g. the EU's Outermost Regions) and the different risks faced by the very diverse regions in the European continent.
  • Adaptation must support and be supported by the protection of the EU's biodiversity (nature-based solutions).
  • The contribution of the private sector to enhance society's resilience must be encouraged: the Commission's efforts will continue to be channelled through its Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth and the subsequent legislative proposals adopted in 2018.
  • Climate services for specific adaptation needs should develop into business opportunities, based on reliable and standardised data and the incentives provided by Copernicus and other European Earth observation initiatives.

The evaluation also suggests areas where more work needs to be done to prepare vulnerable regions and sectors, aiming to provide food for thought for the UN climate change conference (COP24) in December in Katowice, Poland, and adaptation reporting requirements in the context of the governance of the Energy Union.

The evaluation package contains assessments of each of the Member States' national adaptation strategies (or the process leading to those strategies, when they are not yet adopted).

The report has been sent to the European Parliament and to the Council of the EU.

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