Mainstreaming of climate change (mitigation and adaptation) into EU sectoral policies and EU funds, including marine and inland water issues, forestry, agriculture, biodiversity infrastructure as well as buildings, migration and social issues, is an essential component of a successful comprehensive policy.
One of the key instruments through which the European Union can influence climate resilience of infrastructure is regional policy (European Regional Development Fund and Cohesion Fund). Large amounts of funding are dedicated to infrastructure investments, primarily in the newer member states. Many kinds of technical infrastructure – including transport, power grids, water supply, sewage, buildings, and dykes – need to be assessed for resilience to current risks and future climate changes, and upgraded accordingly.
As farmers and foresters manage the majority of land in the EU, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can play an important role in increasing the resilience of rural areas to the effects of climate change and in enabling the agriculture and forestry sectors to develop in a way that ensures their long term sustainability in the face of a changing climate. Successfully integrating climate change adaptation considerations into the CAP will also bring benefits for the economy and society as a whole, by ensuring that essential biodiversity and ecosystem services dependent on land management continue to thrive and that the productive capacity and viability of the land-based sectors is maintained. Adaptation planning can bring opportunities to build agricultural systems with greater resilience to environmental, climatic and economic risks.
Climate adaptation is not a new priority for the CAP, although to date it has mainly been addressed by reference to specific environmental priorities, such as dealing with water scarcity. In the proposed regulations for the CAP 2014-2020, adaptation has gained greater prominence, with ‘the sustainable use of natural resources and climate action’ one of the three core objectives of the CAP.
Adaptation is also addressed in the Commission's Green Paper on options for an EU approach to forest protection and information systems. Further considerations are expected in the upcoming EU Forest Strategy, to be adopted in 2013.
EU policies and instruments relevant for coastal areas include the Integrated Maritime Policy (and action plan) which allows for the sustainable development of sea-related activities. Its environmental pillar, the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) aims to deliver a 'good environmental status' of the marine environment by 2020.
The Common Fisheries Policy was reformed in 2012 with the aim of achieving sustainable fisheries. Each member state - cooperating with other member states and non-EU countries within a marine region - is required to develop strategies for their own marine waters.
Under the MSFD, and in developing their respective marine strategies, member states need to specify, where appropriate, any evidence of climate change impacts.
Water resources are directly impacted by climate change, and the management of these resources affects the vulnerability of ecosystems, socio-economic activities and human health. Water management is also expected to play an increasingly central role in adaptation.
Climate change is projected to lead to major changes in water availability across Europe with increasing water scarcity and droughts, mainly in southern Europe and increasing risk of floods throughout most of Europe.
Climate change is expected to have a substantial impact on biodiversity, the functioning of ecosystems, and their ability to deliver ecosystem services on which society and economies depend. It interacts and often exacerbates other pressures on biodiversity and, together with land-use change, is projected to become the greatest driver of global biodiversity loss. Although ecosystems are threatened by climate change, they are also part of the adaptation solution as they perform important services for society such as climate regulation, carbon sequestration, flood protection and the prevention of soil erosion.
Climate change will have both direct and indirect effects on human health. Direct effects result from, for example, changes in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. Indirect effects can be felt through changes in the incidence of diseases transmitted by insects (mosquitoes and ticks) or changes in water and air quality. The Adaptation White Paper (2009) included a Staff working document on ‘Human, animal and plant health impacts of climate change' showing what action could be taken in response to these changes and the tools and financing already available.
Over the last few years, Europe has experienced severe forest fires, floods, and droughts with devastating effect on people's lives, the European economy and the environment. According to a 2011 report of the European Environmental Agency 'Mapping the impacts of natural hazards and technological accidents in Europe', the number and impacts of disasters in Europe significantly increased between 1998-2009. Climate change was identified as a driving force behind the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events which are projected to grow further in the future.