Newsletter XVIII - High Level Workshop on Science Advice for Climate Change Adaptation, on 16 September 2019

A high-level Workshop on Science Advice for Climate Change Adaptation, co-organised by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and Directorates-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) and Research and Innovation (DG RTD), was held on 16 September 2019 in Brussels.

 Climate change is a top priority of the new European Commission, with President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s proposed “European Green Deal” (and a pursuant European Climate Law) - which aim to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050 - to be delivered within 100 days of the new Commission taking office on 1 November 2019. The new EU strategy on adaptation to climate change should be fully integrated in the Green Deal, while adaptation to climate change is one of five defined mission areas of Horizon Europe, the EU’s planned €100 billion research and innovation programme for 2021-2027.

 The Workshop was thus a timely occasion to present the latest science in climate change adaptation (CCA), understand policy developments in the field, facilitate knowledge sharing among DGs, and help prepare the next JRC work programme for CCA. The Workshop was opened by Charlina Vitcheva, Deputy Director-General (DDG) of the JRC, and Clara de la Torre, DDG of DG CLIMA. As well as JRC, DG CLIMA and DG RTD, the Workshop was attended by representatives from 12 other DGs interested in evidence and knowledge for CCA across policy domains, and from the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF).

 Presentations by JRC experts included: an overview of the state of play - and the JRC’s important role - in science advice for CCA; the PESETA projects on climate impacts in Europe; an analysis of the big unknowns and uncertainties of future climate impacts; JRC’s science support to the adaptation component of the Global Covenant of Mayors (GCoM) for climate and energy. Other presentations included: CCA research science and innovation, and research and practice gaps relevant for Horizon Europe (by DG RTD); Copernicus Climate Change Service (by ECMWF); Digital Europe - Extreme Earth Initiative (by DG for Communications Networks, Content and Technology / CNECT); tracking progress on adaptation, and the role of EEA assessments and the European Climate Adaptation Platform (by the EEA); requirements for monitoring progress in disaster prevention at the EU and global scales, through the Union Civil Protection Mechanism and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, respectively (by DG ECHO).

 From the discussions, possible priorities for future work emerged. DG CLIMA expressed a clear short-term need for knowledge to support the forthcoming climate adaptation strategy. PESETA 4 will be the JRC’s timely contribution, but more can and must be done. DG RTD called for better exploitation of past and future research, especially given the upcoming mission area on CCA in Horizon Europe. There is a need for improving data on policy effectiveness. There is a lack of quality data for tracking adaptation outcomes and policy effectiveness. Other approaches to data collection should be developed, also better utilising Copernicus services. Science must cover new and challenging areas. Various DGs called for additional research areas, largely confirming and complementing needs already anticipated by JRC, including: cascading and spill-over impacts, non-economic impacts, impacts of extremes beyond general equilibrium, stress testing of government budgets, and more sector-relevant information (e.g. DGs AGRI, MARE). 

Also highlighted were sustainable finance (“guidelines on adaptation finance can leverage huge amounts of private funding”), agriculture (“the averages of PESETA hide important regional differences on livelihoods as well as possible scenarios for food insecurity”), migration (“strong interest in better understanding cascading effects”), resilience and vulnerability (“JRC’s work on resilience scoreboard may be useful to monitor progress in adaptation”).

Paulo Barbosa and Niall McCormick
European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)

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