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European Commission’s Bold Move: Guiding Member States Towards Climate Resilience

This summer, the European Commission has taken a significant step by adopting a new set of comprehensive guidelines aimed at assisting Member States in updating and implementing their national adaptation strategies, plans, and policies. These guidelines align with the European Climate Law and the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change, reflecting the European Union’s commitment to addressing the pressing challenges posed by climate change.

The devastating impacts of unbridled climate change, such as extreme heatwaves, destructive droughts, deadly forest fires, and rising sea levels eroding coastlines, are already taking a severe toll on our planet. These guidelines are a proactive response to these rapidly intensifying challenges, aiming to empower Member States to enhance their preparedness for the reality of these climate-related impacts.

The recent findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) serve as a stark reminder of the urgency of adapting to the effects of climate change. The report emphasizes that there is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all. It highlights that accelerated implementation of adaptation actions in this decade can significantly reduce projected losses and damages for both humans and ecosystems while delivering numerous co-benefits.

Picture by Matt Palmer on Unsplash

The aim of the guidelines

By providing these guidelines, the European Commission seeks to make climate adaptation a top political priority across Member States. The aim is to encourage a whole-government approach to climate adaptation policy-making, promoting multilevel coordination and mainstreaming. This approach involves horizontal collaboration between different government departments and vertical integration at all levels of sub-national authorities, including regions and local administrations.

The guidelines also outline key features of adaptation policy that should be integrated into the broader national adaptation policy framework. These features include:

Emphasizing legal frameworks over soft policies.
– Regularly updating adaptation strategies and plans.
– Conducting climate risk assessments through regular stress testing of infrastructure and systems.
– Involving all relevant stakeholders, including those most vulnerable to climate change and those who can drive change in the planning and implementation of adaptation actions.
Engaging all relevant sectors and levels of public administration, with sufficient personnel and financial resources.
Establishing a system for continuous monitoring and evaluation of all adaptation actions.
To enhance Member States’ adaptation strategies and plans, the guidelines introduce new topics and policy areas that should be considered in policy-making to achieve better outcomes. For instance, nature-based solutions are highlighted as cost-effective and efficient adaptation options that bring significant social, environmental, and economic co-benefits.

These guidelines also emphasize the need to reduce the unequal burden of climate risks and ensure equity in the distribution of adaptation benefits. Furthermore, the guidelines include examples of maladaptation, which refers to unintended negative consequences of adaptation efforts. These examples offer valuable insights to improve adaptation strategies and plans by learning from the lessons of various adaptation options.

Picture by Matt Palmer on Unsplash

A key to adaptation

These guidelines are a significant outcome of the 2021 EU Adaptation Strategy and contribute to the EU’s objectives of adopting a more systemic approach to adaptation and improving strategies and plans. They build upon previous guidance issued in 2013 but reflect the substantial changes in the policy landscape at both the EU and national levels since then. The adoption of the EU Adaptation Strategy and the European Climate Law in 2021 has been particularly impactful at the EU level, with the European Climate Law binding Member States to ensure continuous progress in enhancing adaptive capacity, resilience, and vulnerability reduction in line with the Paris Agreement.

At the national level, as all Member States already have adaptation strategies and plans in place, these new guidelines aim to help them update and enhance their existing policies. In the words of Frans Timmermans, the European Commission Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, “The weather events many Europeans are experiencing these days will become more extreme and more frequent if climate change continues unchecked. They are a painful reminder of the need to step up both mitigation and adaptation action.” These guidelines will empower EU countries, regions, and local administrations to plan effective adaptation measures that protect citizens, businesses, cities, and nature from the impacts of climate change.

Landscape resilience is a resource that can allow forests and agriculture to be resilient to the impacts of climate change. It represents a fundamental tool for addressing the impacts of the climate on natural, forestry, and agricultural resources to which Europe is also devoting a lot of attention.

ResAlliance is providing foresters and farmers with the knowledge and tools necessary to implement innovative landscape resilience solutions for addressing the challenges posed by climate change impacts.