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Endorsement by the Council of the new EU strategy on adaption to climate change

Vincenzo Elia , 15 juin 2021

On 10 June 2021 the Council approved conclusions endorsing a new strategy that outlines a long-term vision for the EU to become a climate-resilient society that is fully adapted to the unavoidable impacts of climate change by 2050. Adaptation to climate change is indeed an integral part of the Green Pact for Europe and its external dimension and is also firmly anchored in the EU’s climate law.

The Commission published its Communication on a new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change on 24 February 2021. The new strategy aims to step up EU action in all sectors of the economy and society, while increasing synergies with other policy areas, such as biodiversity. This strategy is one of the key actions identified in the EU Green Deal. Since the first strategy in 2013, all Member States have put in place a national adaptation strategy or plan. The European Climate Change Adaptation Platform (climate-ADAPT platform) has become a reference for adaptation knowledge. It has also been progressively integrated into EU’s policies and its long-term budget.

The new strategy focuses on three main themes: better data and better use of existing data, promoting nature-based solutions, integrating financial and economic considerations and stepping up action at international level. Digital transformation is essential to achieve the adaptation objectives of the EU Green Deal. Data on climate-related risks and losses are needed to improve the accuracy of climate risk assessment. Indeed, any new investment or action decision should be made taking into account climate aspects and the foreseeable future development, whether it is households renovating their homes, SMEs setting up businesses in a vulnerable area, large companies managing supply chains, banks agreeing to grant new loans, or cities planning zoning projects. 

The EU has scientific databases such as Copernicus or the European Marine Observation and Data Network(EMODnet) that are freely available to users worldwide. However, data quantifying disaster losses are not satisfactory: they are often not recorded and/or are not available in accessible formats or databases once collected. In order to avoid “climate blind” decisions, the new strategy aims to leverage the climate-ADAPT platform to ensure that data from both the private and public sectors is recorded, collected and shared in a comprehensive and harmonised manner. 

The implementation of nature-based solutions on a larger scale would increase climate resilience and contribute to multiple Green Deal objectives. Blue-green infrastructures are multipurpose as they simultaneously provide environmental, social and economic benefits and help build climate resilience. Measures such as protecting and restoring wetlands, peatlands, coastal and marine ecosystems, developing urban green spaces and installing green roofs and walls, promoting and sustainably managing forests and farmland will help adapt to climate change in a cost-effective way. It is vital to better quantify their benefits, and to better communicate them to decision-makers and practitioners at all levels to improve take-up. So, in its conclusions of October 2020, the Council already considered that nature-based solutions are essential for maintaining healthy water, oceans and soils. Under the new strategy, the Commission will explore and develop investments in nature-based solutions to generate gains in adaptation, mitigation, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity and health. The strategy states that these investments are viable over the long-term, because climate change is amplifying stresses on ecosystems. This can be done through new and innovative financing approaches and products under InvestEU, as well as from programmes such as cohesion policy, the CAP and investment aid policy.

The Paris Agreement set the global objective for adaptation, which describes as a key factor in sustainable development. Adaptation to climate change is a cross-cutting element of the external action of the Union and its Member States, affecting international cooperation as well. The new strategy states that the EU and its Member States must develop a coherent and coordinated way of working, in order to achieve the best possible results at international level. 

The new strategy calls for Member States to integrate adaptation to climate change into macro-fiscal policies. The Commission will explore options for measuring and managing climate-related risks to public finances and develop a framework to encourage the use of climate risk insurance.

The Council considered that the new EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, together with the adoption of an European climate law, will enable the EU to develop resilience and make progress in combating climate change - for which the objective of climate neutrality by 2050 has been set. 

The Council supports the strategy’s aim to step up international action on adaptation, in line with the Paris Agreement. It reconfirms the commitment of the EU and the Member States to further scale up mobilisation of international climate finance and supports the strengthening of global engagement and exchanges on adaptation. 

Finally, with its conclusions, the Council also wanted to provide guidance for the EU communication on adaptation to climate change to be submitted to the UNFCCC before COP26.

Vincenzo Elia, Endorsement of the new EU strategy on adaption to climate change, actualité du CEJE n° 21/2021, disponible sur www.ceje.ch