Adaptation at EU level

Man jumping with a blue umbrella with the European stars on itClick to enlarge
In 2013 the European Commission presented an own adaptation strategy.
Source: kallejipp/

The consequences of climate change can already be felt in Europe. For that reason, efforts to adapt to climate change are becoming increasingly important. In 2013, the European Commission presented an adaptation strategy to meet the growing need for action. Climate change adaptation is an important means to complement climate protection measures.

Table of Contents


Towards a European adaptation strategy

In 2009, the European Union (EU) presented the White Paper “Adapting to Climate change: Towards a European framework for action“. This constituted a first strategic approach to systematic climate adaptation measures. Subsequently, the EU began to integrate the issue of adaptation in its policies and several of its funding programmes. Currently, the coordination of adaptation measures, support of Member States in the development and evaluation of appropriate adaptation instruments, mastering the problem of transboundary environmental impacts and the establishment of trans-regional adaptation measures are high on the agenda. Within the EU Commission, the Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) is responsible for these tasks.

An important result of the White Paper was the development of an EU-wide, cross-border Internet portal on adaptation by the EU Commission and the European Environment Agency (EEA) with the participation of the European nations. The Internet platform “Climate-ADAPT” went online in 2012. Its purpose is to improve the exchange of information on adaptation measures and to create synergies. For that purpose, comprehensive information from research, politics and the public and a wide range of information instruments are provided. A detailed database identifies adaptation projects, publications, stakeholders, case studies, indicators, data and more. The graphic chart below illustrates the structure and users of Climate-ADAPT.

Several European Member States have already started to take climate change adaptation measures. In addition, the number of established regional and trans-national adaptation projects is increasing. Those projects concern, for example, the Baltic States, the Alps or the Danube basin. However, in many states climate adaptation is still at an early stage. Some Member States have not yet developed a national adaptation strategy and take relatively few concrete measures locally. The states often only implement small local projects or create sector-specific plans, for example for heat waves. However, currently there is a lack of comprehensive vulnerability assessments of all sectors that can provide a basis for concerted political action.


Strategy package for climate change adaptation

Against this background, the DG CLIMA presented a strategy package for climate change adaptation in 2013. It suggests a framework for action, which is meant to complement national, regional and local efforts reasonably. The “EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change” constitutes the most important element of the strategy package. It provides an inventory of current and future climate change impacts. Furthermore it gives an overview of future forecasts and opposes the price of inaction to the value of timely action in terms of current and unavoidable consequences of climate change.

The strategy mentions three specific objectives:

  1. Promoting action by Member States
    The EU Member States should be sensitised to individual comprehensive adaptation and receive support in terms of the development of strategies. Financial means strengthen the adaptation capacities of the Member States. These are mainly provided by the funding programme LIFE. The adaptation of cities shall be based in particular on voluntary commitments and on awareness-raising activities along the lines of the “Covenant of Mayors”.
    In order to evaluate and control adaptation measures, the Commission is planning the development of an indicator-based instrument, the so-called “scoreboard”. Based on the results of this indicator and the reports provided in accordance with the Monitoring Regulation, the Commission will review the status of implementation in 2017 and take correction measures if necessary. If the progress turns out to be insufficient, the Commission will consider legally binding instruments.
  2. Better informed decision-making
    To allow for decision-making in the context of adaptation to climate change on the basis of a solid knowledge base, knowledge gaps need to be filled. For this purpose, the adaptation platform Climate-ADAPT shall be further developed and established as a central point for information on adaptation in Europe.
  3. Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors
    In the context of climate-proofing, adaptation needs and opportunities for key areas of EU policies such as the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) or the Cohesion Policy, are provided. The thematic integration shall ensure that EU-funded investments and measures in these areas remain robust in terms of their effectiveness as climate change increases. In addition, the European infrastructure’s climate resilience shall be strengthened. Insurance and other financial products providing protection from natural disasters will be promoted.

In addition, the strategy package contains several accompanying documents for the assessment of climate impacts in a variety of areas, such as coastal and marine protection, health, infrastructure, migration and rural development. Furthermore, it includes guidelines, in particular to support Member States in developing their own national adaptation strategies.

The strategy package pursues the objective of a greater coordination of adaptation measures. The coordination shall improve the EU’s preparedness and capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change. The overall objective is to minimise human, economic and environmental losses and promote economic growth and climate-resilient investments. The construction, water management, insurance, agricultural technologies and ecosystem management sectors are highlighted in particular.

Following the third focus of the EU Strategy, the Commission published a Green Paper on the “insurance of natural disasters and man-made disasters” under the leadership of the Internal Market and Services Directorate General (DG MARKT). As a result of climate change, such disasters are becoming more frequent. They incur damages amounting to billions and thus endanger the economic stability. Often there is no sufficient insurance coverage. In addition, the population is often insufficiently aware of preventive measures. The Green Paper therefore intends to initiate a broad public consultation process concerning the question whether the insurance models that are currently available in the EU offer an adequate disaster protection in the long term.

Next steps

Both the “EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change” and the Green Paper on the insurance of natural disasters are subject to a consultation process. In June 2013, the Environment Council of the European Union welcomed the strategy package in general. Among other things it highlighted the importance of climate adaptation by pointing out that it constitutes an indispensable adjunct to climate protection. Furthermore the council emphasised that climate change adaptation is of great importance also in terms of the foreign and development policy. Other EU institutions such as the Parliament and the Council of Ministers are discussing the Commission’s proposals.