Climate change in Europe – time to adapt?

6 October 2010

Istvan Bart, Policy Officer, Climate Adaptation Unit, Directorate-General for Climate Action, European Commission, said climate adaptation had risen up the policy agenda, and we need to take concrete action to adapt to its impacts, starting at the local level.

“The EPC’s new Task Force on Adaptation to Climate Change is very timely”, said Mr Bart, and the Commission wants to hear the results of its deliberations. The Commission recently convened its Adaptation Steering Group, and in 2009 produced a White Paper on Adaptation, outlining 33 measures in the following areas: strengthening the knowledge base, including developing an Adaptation Clearing House; mainstreaming adaptation; ensuring funding is available from many EU sources; and stepping up international cooperation.

By 2013 there must be a comprehensive EU adaptation strategy in place, with all actors and decision-makers aware of the urgent need for action.

Bas Eickhout, Member of the European Parliament for the Green Party, European Free Alliance, European Parliament was concerned that people underestimate the issues surrounding climate change and there is a lack of knowledge-interface between science and the policy-makers in dealing with the increasing number of events caused by climate change.

He felt people are taking too long to wake up to what is happening and said policy makers must accept that they have to take decisions even through the long-term effects of climate change are uncertain. Climate change adaptation has to be mainstreamed in all EU policies; we need a greater sense of urgency and to think further ahead.

Andreas Spiegel, Senior Climate Change Adviser, Risk Management, and Vice-President, Swiss Reinsurance Company (Swiss Re), said there had been an increase in insured weather-related losses. Swiss Re has studied climate conditions across the globe and the potential losses from climate change by 2030. A cost-benefit analysis showed that up to 65% of total expected loss could be averted, through measures such as improving drainage.

Adaptation is not the ‘silver bullet’, but must be used in tandem with mitigation. Countries’ willingness or ability to take measures to avert risk is based on subjective aspects, but the impact of climate change will be so severe that countries should reduce anticipated financial losses by taking measures now.

Simon Wilson, Director, Edelman/the Centre, and Rapporteur for KBF Project on Climate Change Migration and Social Justice said the project had studied five key areas: buildings; mobility, power and manufacturing; consumption and attitudes, and social protection. It found that in all cases the poorest people will be the worst affected, so ‘win-win solutions’ are needed to mitigate the effects of climate change and recognise the threats to social justice, and make social policies “climate proof”.

Mr Wilson concluded that adaptation must be accessible to all; there must be integrated policies, using impact assessments and a vulnerability index; using green growth to promote jobs; adopt a multi-stakeholder approach; and include adaptation in all policies.