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Adapting to change: Time for climate resilience and a new adaptation strategy

Marco Giuli , Annika Hedberg , Sofia López Piqueres

Date: 05/03/2020
Even if we were to radically change our behaviours and economic policies now, it wouldn’t be enough to stop all of the economic, societal and environmental impacts of climate change. The EU and its member states need to start thinking seriously about how our societies will adapt to this new reality.


Climate mitigation alone will not be enough to stop the dramatic effects of climate change and will have to go hand in hand with adaptation efforts. That is the sobering reality European decision- and policymakers need to keep in mind when developing climate action measures.

Given the close interconnections between ecosystems, people and economies in a globalised world, there are strong reasons for EU member states to join forces, pool risks and cooperate across borders.

This paper, therefore, calls on the EU to mainstream adaptation and shift its focus from reacting to disasters to a more proactive approach that prioritises prevention, risk reduction and resilience building. During the presentation of the new EU climate law yesterday, European Commission President von der Leyen hinted that member states would be required to develop and implement strategies that do just that.   

We furthermore argue that the EU can make a difference by concentrating on the following in its upcoming Adaptation Strategy: 

  • improve the conversion of science-based knowledge into preventive action and responsible behaviour, thus filling the information gap in the current Adaptation Strategy (2013);
  • close the protection gap through effective insurance schemes;
  • adopt nature-based infrastructural solutions and tackle the grey infrastructure bias;
  • address the funding and investment gap.

At the same time, the EU mustn’t lose sight of ensuring fairness and distributive justice while striving for climate change mitigation and protecting the environment and biodiversity. If the von der Leyen Commission succeeds in setting up a plan for action, inciting member states to collaborate and mobilise resources towards the building of a climate-resilient Europe, we can expect multiple benefits. The message is clear: adaptation is not an option, but a social, environmental and economical must.

This Issue Paper is part of the activities under the European Policy Centre (EPC) project ‘Building a climate-resilient Europe’. With this project, we aim to inform the upcoming EU Adaptation Strategy and by extension, strengthen the EU’s resilience to climate change.

Read the full paper here
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