Why adapting to climate change matters

Climate adaptation is the process of adjusting to actual or expected climate change and its effects.

It is about understanding, planning and taking action to protect people, the planet and our prosperity.

Action has never been as urgent as today - the Earth’s average temperature has already risen roughly 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels. This rise is causing more frequent and intense extreme weather events, changing temperature and rainfall patterns, sea levels, sea ice and glacial retreat. The current path of warming raises the risk of abrupt and possibly catastrophic changes if tipping points are breached over the next decades.

Without action today, adaptation will be costlier and more difficult for the next generations.

Responding to these challenges will require scientific breakthroughs in various domains ranging from technologies, solutions and services for adaptation in areas such as

  • drought-resilient crops 
  • water saving technologies
  • satellites for environmental observation 
  • rapid progress in adaptation science and climate analytics as a basis for state-of-the-art climate information
  • scaling up of digital tools to take our adaptive capacities to the next level 

This will need to go hand in hand with societal transformation and large-scale behavioral change.

What is the EU doing?

The Commission’s proposal for the first European Climate Law underlines the importance of stepping up adaptation efforts, including through more decisive action on climate proofing, resilience building, prevention and preparedness.

The Commission will put forward a new, more ambitious strategy on adapting to climate change in early 2021 to make Europe less vulnerable to future climate related threats. 

The strategy will step up Europe’s preparedness for current and future climate events in an attempt to avoid detrimental and potentially catastrophic impacts to our economy, environment and society.

Mission on a climate resilient Europe

The EU's research and innovation programme Horizon Europe (2021-2027) contains a new feature called Missions, designed to maximise the impact of EU support and demonstrate its relevance for society and citizens.

The Mission on a climate resilient Europe has the ambition to turn the urgent challenge of adapting to climate change into an opportunity to make Europe resilient, climate-prepared and fair.

It will do this by testing and up-scaling innovative solutions, creating the right conditions for transforming our societies, and providing demonstrations of deep climate-resilience.

The mission will play an important role in delivering the EU's upcoming new adaptation strategy.

Mission goals

  • prepare Europe to deal with climate disruptions, and help all citizens, communities and regions to better understand, prepare for and manage climate risks such as heatwaves, forest fires, droughts, floods, storms and diseases
  • accelerate the transition to the future we want, supporting European communities and regions in co-creating a vision and innovation pathways. Develop solutions and enabling conditions for transformative adaptation within safe planetary boundaries
  • build deep resilience by scaling up actionable solutions that bring about transformations in society by demonstrating deep resilience across a number of European communities and regions

More details in the report: A climate resilient Europe

Background

Even stopping all greenhouse gas emissions would not stop the climate impacts that are already occurring, and which are likely to continue for decades.

Even in a best-case scenario of sustained emissions’ reduction, there will still be large stresses on multiple economic and natural systems.

Adaptation will be necessary in agriculture, biodiversity, coastal areas, disaster risk reduction, energy, finance, forestry, health, infrastructure, marine and fisheries, transport, urban, water management and many others.

Managing these in a holistic way will require better models for climate change impacts, sustained efforts for technological and socio-economic innovations and mobilisation of finance.

Documents

DownloadPDF - 1.7 MB