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EU funding of adaptation

The EU finances adaptation to climate change in Europe through a wide range of instruments. The Multiannual Financial Framework  2021-2027 ensures that at least 25% of the European budget is climate-related expenditure. Therefore, Climate adaptation actions have to be integrated into all the major EU spending programmes, and a tracking system is put in place to guarantee these objectives are met. Important funding streams related to adaptation are:

  • The Recovery and Resilience Facility is the centerpiece of Europe’s recovery plan, NextGenerationEU. It aims to mitigate the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 crisis and make European economies and societies more sustainable, resilient and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the green and digital transitions. EU countries are responsible for developing national recovery and resilience plans, containing investments and reforms to address the key challenges identified in the European Semester framework, as well as to support the green and digital transition. This also includes the new EU Strategy on Climate Adaptation to make Europe a climate-resilient society by 2050. Further information can be found here.
  • The LIFE Programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. The Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation sub-programme will contribute to the shift towards a sustainable, energy-efficient, renewable energy-based, climate-neutral and resilient economy, thereby contributing to sustainable development. More information can be found here.
  • Horizon Europe is the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation. It tackles climate change, helps to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and boosts the EU’s competitiveness and growth. More information can be found here.
  • Funding under the EU Mission on Adaptation to Climate Change may also be accessed through the Horizon Europe programme, particularly through the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2023-2024.
  • The EU Cohesion Policy is the EU’s main investment policy to support – amongst other objectives – sustainable development and the improvement of citizen’s quality of life. The funding is delivered through specific funds, including:
  • European Regional Development Fund (including the funding of INTERREG projects) aims to strengthen economic, social and territorial cohesion in the European Union by correcting imbalances between its regions. In 2021-2027 it will enable investments in a smarter, greener, more connected and more social Europe that is closer to its citizens. Further information on the instrument can be found here
  • The Cohesion Fund targets the reduction of economic and social disparities through investment in environment and Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T).
    • TEN-E(nergy) Regulation (actually under revision). The main policy priority of the current TEN-E Regulation has been to improve energy security and interconnectivity of all Member States and regions. The opportunity is that massive investments made in the energy system should allow climate resilience/adaptation aspects to be addressed early in the investment cycle to ensure the clean energy transition is also climate‑resilient. The TEN-E Regulation makes reference to climate resilience but only in connection to certain projects and it is not sufficiently developed in terms of details and guidance.
    • TEN-T(ransport) infrastructure – such as inland waterways or ports, but also vulnerable parts of roads or railway lines – are subject to particular risks in periods of extreme weather events (long drought, floods etc.). Therefore, it is also important to design TEN-T infrastructure in a way that it ensures a high level of climate change resilience. The TEN-T regulation has specific requirements in terms of considering the vulnerability of transport infrastructure with regard to a changing climate as well as natural or man-made disasters, with a view to addressing those challenges. More information can be found here.
  • The Just Transition Fund (also pillar one of the Just Transition Mechanism) is a key tool to support the territories most affected by the transition towards climate neutrality providing them with tailored support. It is implemented under shared management, under the overall framework of Cohesion policy, which is the main EU policy to reduce regional disparities and to address structural changes in the EU. More information can be found here.

Other relevant instruments are:

  • The dedicated InvestEU scheme is the second pillar of the Just Transition Mechanism. It builds on the model of the Investment Plan for Europe and brings together, under one roof, the European Fund for Strategic Investments and 13 EU financial instruments that are currently available. The intention is to make EU funding via budgetary guarantees simpler to access and more effective through a more coherent approach, with one set of rules and procedures and one point of contact for technical assistance. Sustainability is a key aspect of the InvestEU Programme.
  • The Connecting Europe Facility is a funding programme that supports trans-European networks and infrastructures in the sectors of transport, telecommunications and energy. The resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change through a climate vulnerability and risk assessment including the relevant adaptation measures are an important award criteria. More information can be found here.
  • EU countries implement European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) funding through rural development programmes (RDPs). RDPs are co-financed by national budgets and may be prepared on either a national or regional basis. While the European Commission approves and monitors RDPs, decisions regarding the selection of projects and the granting of payments are handled by national and regional managing authorities. Each RDP must work towards at least four of the six priorities of the EAFRD. One priority is promoting resource efficiency and supporting the shift toward a low-carbon and climate resilient economy in the agriculture, food and forestry sectors. At least 30% of funding for each RDP must be dedicated to measures relevant for the environment and climate change. More information can be found here.
  • The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund runs from 2021 to 2027 and supports the EU common fisheries policy, the EU maritime policy and the EU agenda for international ocean governance. It provides support for developing innovative projects ensuring that aquatic and maritime resources are used sustainably. More information can be found here.
  • The Union Civil Protection Mechanism The Mechanism aims to strengthen cooperation between the EU Member States and 6 Participating States on civil protection to improve prevention, preparedness and response to disasters. When an emergency overwhelms the response capabilities of a country in Europe and beyond, it can request assistance through the Mechanism. More information can be found here.
  • The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development supports its clients in identifying those climate change impacts that are likely to affect their operations. This is expected to lead to the formulation of adaptation strategies that increase resilience through improved practices, and investments in measures and technologies that are better suited to a changing and more variable climate, and which reduce long-term risk. More information can be found here.
  • The European Investment Bank is already one of the biggest investors in climate action and environmental sustainability globally, being the largest Multilateral Development Bank financier of climate action. The EIB aims to increase the volume of its support for climate action, including building climate resilience. More information can be found here. More specifically, the EIB provides the Climate Adaptation Investment Advisory Platform (ADAPT). It facilitates the deployment of technical and financial expertise to address specific investment and market needs and to accelerating the financing of climate adaptation investments. Those are investments that have the potential to strengthen the resilience of cities, infrastructure networks, coastal areas, river basins, food systems, forests and ecosystems and other activities vulnerable to climate change.
  • Erasmus+ is the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe. It also allows project that are equipping students in understanding climate change and learn about collective responsibility toward environmental protection and prevention of further damaging situations. More information can be found here.
  • The Digital Europe Programme is designed to bridge the gap between digital technology research and market deployment. It will benefit Europe's citizens and businesses, especially SMEs. Investment under the Digital Europe Programme supports the European Union’s twin objectives of a green transition and digital transformation while strengthening the Union’s resilience and digital sovereignty. More information can be found here.