Preparing for the future: a new climate change adaptation strategy for the EU

There can be little doubt that 2020 will go down in history as a terrible year. We are yet to see a pathway out of the COVID-19 pandemic – while countries around the world are grappling with devastating disasters: massive fires in Australia and in California, mega floods in Pakistan, infrastructure collapsing in Siberia as permafrost melts, intense hurricanes in America, deadly landslides in Europe…

Disasters are increasingly extreme and complex, with the effects of climate change already visible on the risks, severity and frequency of weather and climate hazards. The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic further compounds risks and impacts, at a time when governments are already struggling to fight back.

The need for better preparing to shocks has never been clearer: the urgency of action in the short term must not deter from moving towards climate-readiness, and the recovery is an opportunity to increase the resilience of our society across the board. This is indeed the guiding principle for recovery in the EU: the European Green Deal was Europe’s growth strategy, and now it is also the roadmap out of the crisis.

The European Commission will adopt a new and more ambitious climate change adaptation strategy by February 2021, as an essential element of the European Green Deal. The new strategy also responds to the need for better preparedness: climate change adaptation is about understanding, planning and acting to prevent the impacts in the first place, minimise their effects, and address their consequences.

The EU was an early actor on climate change adaptation, with the adoption in 2013 of a Strategy on adaptation to climate change, and a pioneer in integrating considerations of climate change risks into decision making. The EU also recognised early on that disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation policies need to be brought closer together, as they are connected by a common goal: reducing the impacts of extreme events and increasing resilience to disasters.

Building on this experience, the new EU adaptation strategy will contribute to achieving the Paris Agreement global goal on adaptation. It will aim to help all levels of government and stakeholders to improve awareness and knowledge of climate impacts, reinforce planning and climate risk management, and accelerate action with a focus on solutions, innovation, and implementation. To achieve this goal, the new strategy will build on, expand on, and share the wealth of experience accumulated thus far, as well as address new and emerging priorities – such as enabling ecosystems to adapt to a changing climate, and reinforcing global actions for climate change adaptation and resilience. It will bring climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction closer together, by for instance: facilitating timely, accurate, and accessible climate risk and disaster loss data; supporting member states and partner countries in integrating climate change considerations into disaster risk assessments; promoting a comprehensive framework for climate risk transfer mechanisms in the EU; and facilitating the assessment of current and future climate change and disaster risks in Europe.

In conclusion, addressing the impacts of climate change by building resilience and preparedness is a vital opportunity for “building forward better” after the COVID-19 pandemic, and promoting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in alignment with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. The new EU adaptation strategy will contribute to these efforts, and help increase the resilience of the EU to climate change and disaster risks, at the same time fostering a green recovery.

Additional information. 

- General climate change adaptation policies:
- Open public consultation on the new adaptation strategy (now closed): Adaptation to Climate Change Blueprint for a new, more ambitious EU strategy blueprint_en.pdf

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