Adaptation to Climate Change

Climate change constitutes a global calamity, the potential impacts of which are probably one of the greatest environmental (and not only) challenges our planet and humanity are facing. Even if emissions in greenhouse gases are stabilized relatively soon, climate change and its effects will last for many decades to come. Adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change is, therefore, necessary.  

Rightly so, the first priority of the EU’s strategy for responding to climate change is a rapid transition to a low-carbon global economy, with the goal to limit the unavoidable global warming to no more than 2ºC above the pre-industrial temperatures. The second goal is taking action to adapt to the current and anticipated impacts of climate change in order to minimize their repercussions. It is almost certain that the impacts of climate change will be bigger than initially predicted, and the consequences will be unequally spread throughout the EU’s regions. Therefore, while global mitigation measures are important, national and regional adaptation measures must be foreseen in parallel.

The White Paper provides guidance and sets out the directions for the preparation of National Adaptation Strategies (NAP’s) and the adoption of adaptation measures.  Most adaptation initiatives should be taken nationally, regionally and even locally.

The framework for action proposed by the White Paper mainly focuses on:

  • raising awareness about the risks and impacts of climate change,
  • considering of the impacts of climate change on key EU policies,
  • combining several policy measures to achieve better results - innovative funding measures (e.g. market-based systems) may be needed to facilitate adaptation,
  • supporting wider international initiatives on adaptation to climate change,
  • cooperation with national, regional and local authorities.

A number of Member States have already prepared their National Adaptation Strategies. The European Commission is in the process of developing the comprehensive European Adaptation Strategy, planned to be presented in March 2013. 

The Strategy’s main objective is to enhance the capacity of Member States to cope with climate change and prepare and implement their National Adaptation Strategies.

Examples of adaptation measures include:

  • construction of sea walls
  • establishment of early warning systems
  • revision and/or modification of building codes
  • new urban design concepts
  • modification of farming practices and crop use
  • improvement of risk management
  • enhancement of water use efficiency

Other issues that the Strategy will address are: how trans-boundary climate impacts and adaptation measures could be best addressed - such as those related to vector borne diseases, forest fires, coastal protection, early warning systems, integrated regional cross-border responses; and how can the knowledge base on adaptation be further extended at the EU level. Examples for the latter are the improvement of the cooperation between Member States, sharing of good practices, and enhancing access to, and actual use of information. Compulsory reporting could also be considered; provided it is proven that it can be useful.  

Furthermore, the Strategy will encourage the strengthening of knowledge through its Climate- Adaptation Platform, launched on the 23rd of March, 2012, in Copenhagen. Inter alia, the Platform aims at transboundary issues, problems in cities, promoting risk assessments, and the support for the identification of local adaptation options in relation to the use of EU funds and the exploration of ways to unlock the investment potential of the private sector. For adaptation strategies, action plans and measures to have any real impact, it is necessary that adequate funds be made available.

Therefore, the Cyprus Presidency will bring the topic of Adaptation Financing to the Informal Environment Council to be held on the 7th and 8th of July 2012, so as to provide a forum for the discussion of the challenges and opportunities presented to the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 (MMF),  international financing organizations, the insurance sector, and public-private partnerships, to contribute, in a period of on-going economic and financial crisis, towards the successful implementation of the EU Adaptation Strategy.