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EU Adaptation Strategy

The (2013) EU strategy on adaptation to climate change aims at making Europe more climate-resilient. Taking a coherent approach by complementing the activities of Member States, it supports action by promoting greater coordination and information-sharing, and by ensuring that adaptation considerations are addressed in all relevant EU policies and funding programmes.

The strategy defines three priorities and eight specific actions (see Figure), accompanied by more detailed policy documents

  • Guidance to support Member States and other stakeholders developing adaptation strategies or integrating adaptation considerations in European funding programmes and investments.
  • Assessment of climate change impacts and adaptation frameworks in key sectors and areas (coastal and marine, health, infrastructure, rural development, etc.).
  • A green paper on the insurance of natural and man-made disasters, addressing the suitability of the insurance conditions in Europe due to the higher occurrence of extreme events.  
  • Non-paper Guidelines for Project Managers: Making vulnerable investments climate resilient.

Implementing the strategy

Implementing the Strategy to improve the EU's preparedness for current and future climate impacts encompasses several actions organised around the 3 priorities:

Priority I: Promoting action by MS

 Priority 2: Better informed  decision making

Priority 3: Key vulnerable sectors

Evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy

The European Commission’s evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy finds that the strategy has delivered on its objectives to promote action by Member States, ‘climate-proof’ action at the EU level and support better-informed decision-making. Progress has been recorded against each of its eight individual actions, including the development of the online platform Climate-ADAPT. Nevertheless, the evaluation outlines how Europe is still vulnerable to climate impacts within and outside its borders and suggests areas where more work needs to be done to prepare vulnerable regions and sectors.

Key findings from the evaluation:

  • The current strategy is still relevant and the Commission will be guided by its objectives. Important lessons have been learned in the evaluation process. The strategy has been a reference point to prepare Europe for the climate impacts to come, at all levels.
  • Knowledge, adaptation modelling and region-specific intelligence has been generated by the EU's Horizon 2020 research programme and projects and by the Commission’s own internal scientific services (Joint Research Centre).
  • Major infrastructure projects financed by the EU budget have become climate-proof and will withstand sea level rise, flooding or intense heat.
  • In the future, an effort must be made to ensure most or all EU cities count on a thorough adaptation plan to protect citizens from both extreme and slow-onset climate hazards. The plans should also cater for specific vulnerabilities of certain communities (e.g. the EU's Outermost Regions) and the different risks faced by the very diverse regions in the European continent.
  • Adaptation must support and be supported by the protection of the EU's biodiversity (nature-based solutions).
  • The contribution of the private sector to enhance society's resilience must be encouraged: the Commission's efforts will continue to be channelled through its Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth and the subsequent legislative proposals adopted in 2018.
  • Climate services for specific adaptation needs should develop into business opportunities, based on reliable and standardised data and the incentives provided by Copernicus and other European Earth observation initiatives.

The evaluation was carried out using workshops, a targeted stakeholder survey and a public consultation. The aim of the evaluation was to examine the implementation and performance of the Strategy, looking at its relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and EU added value. Also, the evaluation included the ‘adaptation preparedness scoreboard’ for measuring Member States’ level of readiness based on qualitative, process-based indicators.

EEA contributed to the evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy. On Action 5, a detailed evaluation of the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT) (EEA, 2018) was conducted by the EEA, with the support of the ETC/CCA, looking at the same evaluation criteria as the overall evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy.  

Results of the evaluation were published in November 2018.  

The European Green Deal

The European Green Deal (announced in December 2019) presents the Commission's plan for a sustainable green transition. This includes making the EU climate neutral by 2050; protecting human life, animals and plants by cutting pollution; helping companies become world leaders in clean products and technologies; and helping ensure a just and inclusive transition. In the initial roadmap, steps to increase the EU's climate ambition for 2030 and 2050 include the Commission adopting a new, more ambitious EU strategy on adaptation to climate change.

To gather a wide range of stakeholder views for the new Strategy in order to inform the design and policy options explored, as well as the appropriate level of ambition, the European Commission organised a public consultation in 2020. A blueprint document for the consultation gave examples and ideas of themes that can be tackled in the new Strategy:

  • More and better data;
  • Deeper knowledge and faster deployment of solutions;
  • Closing the climate protection gap;
  • Preventing damage to infrastructure and beyond;
  • Adapting forests and other ecosystems for an adapting society;
  • Oceans;
  • Reinforced global action for climate resilience.

Adoption of the new adaptation strategy is planned for the first quarter of 2021 and foreseen to link more directly to the 2015 global developments like the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Sustainable Development Agenda as well as the EU implementation of these goals. It is also likely that the new EU Adaptation Strategy will connect directly to major EU initiatives like the Mission for a Climate resilient Europe and the Union’s renewed sustainable finance agenda (also foreseen for the first quarter of 2021).