Adaptation to climate change can no longer wait and the EU must support such efforts in Europe
24 September 2012
While the climate challenge has fallen off the political radar due to the focus on economic crisis and fiscal consolidation, the reality has not changed. We in Europe are witnessing ever-faster warming of the climate in the form of extreme weather and natural disasters, which pose serious economic, social and environmental challenges. Even the best efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions – the cause of this change – will not stop the extreme weather events that are already affecting Europe today.
Europe can no longer afford to pay for the consequences later. It must start to adapt now. More must be done to address the impact of climate change on biodiversity, water and food security, human health, infrastructure, and overall economic and social development. Measures taken must be smart, cost-effective and, when possible, creative projects that encourage innovation and benefit society as a whole.
The EPC’s new report ‘Climate is changing – is Europe ready?’, provides a reminder that with the economic crisis ongoing, it is more important than ever for Europe to pay attention to where and how money is spent. It takes a closer look at the impact of climate change and the importance of adaptation for three sectors: agriculture and natural resources, infrastructure, and European’s health and well-being. It looks at the economics of climate-change adaptation and different solutions for financing and co-operating on projects. It makes the case for innovative and cost-effective solutions that can help to promote a more sustainable economy, economically and environmentally, and provides EU policymakers, member states, regions, public-sector bodies and private sector actors with recommendations for the way forward. The contents of the report draw on discussions organised by the EPC, in conjunction with the King Baudouin Foundation (KBF), in 2010-2012.
Although climate-change adaptation is primarily a national responsibility, the report shows that the EU has a number of tools at its disposal to help member states, regions and businesses to make smarter decisions.It sets out eight main areas for action in which the EU could play a stronger role:
- Building the knowledge-base
- Building capacities to act
- Communicating and raising awareness about adaptation
- Mainstreaming mitigation and adaptation across policies
- Developing clear guidelines and criteria for financing adaptation projects
- Creating a market place for adaptation and encouraging innovation
- Sharing the burden and taking into account the most vulnerable in society
- Setting a vision for adaptation
The EU must urge member states to adapt national adaptation strategies. Providing member states, regional and local authorities with a set of indicators or a check-list would undoubtedly help, as it would enable them to:
- develop right adaptation measures for a given region or a sector taking into consideration their vulnerabilities but also possible co-benefits and adverse effects;
- deliver needed measures in timely and cost-effective manner, and;
- ensure that the measures are effective in the long run.
The report will be launched at an EPC Policy Dialogue on climate-change adaptation on 26 September at 14.00-16.00, in the Residence Palace (155 Rue de la Loi). Speakers at the event will include Jos Delbeke, Director-General for Climate Action in the European Commission, Jo Leinen, Member of the European Parliament, Pier Vellinga, Programme Director for Climate Change at Wageningen University & Research Centre and Axel Volkery, Senior Fellow and Head Environmental Governance at the Institute for European Environmental Policy. Annika Ahtonen, EPC Policy Analyst, will introduce the main recommendations of the report and chair the debate.
The discussion is timely: the European Commission is currently working on an EU Adaptation Strategy, which is expected to be adopted in the spring of 2013. The EU is still engaged in the final battle over the EU budget for 2014-2020, where one of the remaining questions is the extent to which it will reflect the political priority given to creating a greener and more sustainable European economy, and the extent to which its programmes will promote climate action.
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