Environmental Law Service

Climate Law Database

Supplementary provisions of the CCA - Adaptation to the impacts of climate change

The White Paper (relevant EU document) explicitly acknowledges the need for action on Member States level as regards adaptation. This leaves room for discretion to the Member States, nevertheless due to its cross-cutting nature measures on adaptation could touch sectors which include binding EU legislation. Since adaptation is a heavily cross-cutting issue, it would not make sense to include concrete adaptation measures in the national CCAs. However, Member States should be encouraged to include the obligation to draw up national adaptation plans in their CCAs.

What is meant by adaptation to the impacts of climate change?

Adaptation as defined on European Commission website means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause. Early action will save on damage costs later. Adaptation strategies are needed at all levels of administration, from the local up to the international level. Examples of adaptation measures include using scarce water resources more efficiently, adapting building codes to future climate conditions and extreme weather events, building flood defences and raising the levels of dykes, developing drought-tolerant crops, choosing tree species and forestry practices less vulnerable to storms and fires, and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate.

General EU framework

Adaptation to climate change is, next to the mitigation of GHG emissions in the various sectors, the second pillar of EU (as well as global) action in the field of climate change. Adaptation is a cross-cutting issue; it touches issues such as agriculture and forestry, water management and resources, tourism, human, animal and plant health or biodiversity and ecosystems. Adaptation policies are based on the assumption that even if mitigation measures are successful, there will be certain effects which make adaptation measures necessary. The EU has issued a series of documents regarding adaptation strategies. The central and most prominent document is the “White paper – Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action” (COM(2009) 147 final). It lays down the basic requirements and strategies to strengthen the EU’s resilience to cope with the impacts of a changing climate. Next to the White Paper there are discussion documents on agriculture and health, as well as a policy paper on water, coasts and marine issues. All documents are available on the Commission’s ho­mepage on adaptation: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/water/adaptation/index_en.htm.

White paper – Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action

The White Paper acknowledges that most adaptation measures will have to be taken at national, regional or local level due to the regional variability and severity of climate impacts. However, an integrated and coordinated approach at EU level can strengthen those measures and increase their effectiveness. In particular EU action is needed because the impacts of climate change certainly do not respect the borders of individual countries. Also some areas of the EU are particularly disadvantaged by the developments (e.g. coastal regions, Alps) and will need the solidarity of all Member States in order to be able to take effective measures. Lastly, certain sectors which are closely integrated at EU level through the single market and common policies demand for action at EU level.

The White Paper tries to establish a framework for action and identifies four key pillars:

  • Developing a strong knowledge base: Knowledge generation and distribution. Establishment of a Clearing House Mechanism as a database on climate change impact, vulnerability and best practices.
  • Integrating adaptation into EU policies: “Adaptation mainstreaming” in sectors with EU policy involvement such as animal and human health, agriculture and forests, biodiversity, ecosystems, energy, transport and water.
  • Instruments for financing adaptation: Financial constraints are one of the main barriers to adaptation. It is important to ensure that the available funds are used appropriately. Also the use of insurance and other financial service products should be explored. Revenue from allowance auctioning within the ETS should be used for adaptation purposes.
  • Stepping up international cooperation: Many countries are already enduring the impact of climate change. There is an urgent need to improve their resilience and their capacity to adapt, with a focus on partner countries.

However, the White paper is not legally binding document.

Regulating adaptation to climate change

The White Paper explicitly acknowledges the need for action on Member States level as regards adaptation. This leaves room for discretion to the Member States, nevertheless due to its cross-cutting nature measures on adaptation could touch sectors which include binding EU legislation. National adaptation strategies have already been adopted by Denmark, Finland, Germany, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and UK.

Within national adaptation plans following aspects could be/have to be regulated:

  • The competent authorities for the drawing up of the plan have to be identified/put in place and obliged to draw up an adaptation plan within a reasonable timeframe.
  • The process of the drawing up of the plan should be open and allow for public participation and intervention. All relevant stakeholders should be included in the process.
  • The plans should identify the measures, responsibilities (of authorities, public, NGOs, business sector) and timeframes.
  • Regular reporting obligations to parliaments or national assemblies should be included.
  • Provisions on awareness raising and publicity of the plan and of measures taken.
  • Obligation to regular updates of the plan.
  • Provisions on financing (optional).

Regulation of adaptation to climate change in British and Scottish Act

The part 4 of the British Act provides a framework for regulating the adaptation to climate change in the Articles 58 and 59 (the Articles 61 to 66 are also of some relevance). The Act requires regular reports assessing how climate change is expected to affect the UK, as well as programs to respond to the impacts identified in the reports: Government is required (1) to report at least every five years on the risks of climate change and (2) to publish a program setting how these will be addressed.

The part 5 of the Scottish Act contains provisions on programmes for adaptation to climate change. Article 54 regulates reports on progress towards implementation of programmes for adaptation, Article 55 and 56 contains further provisions on reporting.