Local governments have put recommendations forward as the European Commission is to report to the European Parliament and the Council on climate adaptation in 2017
The effects of climate change are already being seen in cities and regions across Europe. They are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events such as storms, floods, heat waves and droughts. Such events can have dramatic economic and social consequences. As climate impacts locally first, members of the EU’s assembly of local and regional authorities are engaged in the ongoing revision of EU’s climate change adaptation strategy. A set of recommendations have been adopted at the plenary session of the European Committee of the Regions in Brussels. These include calls to encourage collaboration between different levels of government on adaptation, to increase investment in capacity building, to close knowledge and information gaps at the local level and to support cities’ and regions’ access to public and private financing supporting climate adaptation actions.
“A well-functioning multi-level governance framework is of crucial importance”, said Sirpa Hertell (FI/EPP), member of the city council of Espoo and rapporteur on the opinion ‘ Towards a new EU climate change adaptation strategy – taking an integrated approach ‘. Stronger collaboration between the different levels of government – in particular in the preparation and implementation of the national, regional and local adaptation strategies and plans – is therefore to be further supported. Sirpa Hertell also stressed the need of multi-stakeholder involvement for an effective adaptation action: “In Espoo, engaging with environmental, socioeconomic, and financial stakeholders but also with the citizens in smart urban development was key to secure its acceptance and therefore the success of any climate change adaptation strategy. There is no real progress without a solid social partnership behind it”.
The CoR also calls the European Commission to provide an enabling framework for capacity building in cities and regions (e.g. for risk modelling tools, or reporting and monitoring methods) and reiterates its support to EU initiatives such as the Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy and the new EU Urban Agenda Partnerships that foster the emergence of effective cooperation platforms.
Climate finance is another key aspect which the CoR opinion highlights in order to successfully implement climate change adaptation strategies. Various EU financing instruments already exist to support local and regional authorities in climate adaptation such as ESIF, H2020, LIFE, EU Solidarity Fund and Natural Capital Financing Facility yet accessing those funds still remains a big challenge. “We have to consider revising pre-conditions to fast-track access to funds for committed local and regional authorities with existing risk and vulnerability assessments or climate adaption action plans” proposes Ms. Hertell. “We need to develop new and more innovative ways to channel investments for adaptation actions to local and regional authorities”, she adds.
Furthermore, local and regional leaders call on the EU to further embed its adaptation actions into international climate treaties such as the Paris Agreement and to reinforce its exemplary role in the international arena.
Local governments’ input comes timely as the European Commission is to report to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of its climate adaptation strategy in the course of 2017. The potential revision of the strategy offers a good opportunity to local governments to put recommendations forward on the basis of their experience and expertise as climate action front-runners.
In April 2013, the European Commission (EC) adopted the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change, with the aim of supporting adaptation action across the EU. This strategy sets out three clear objectives and a set of eight actions for taking the EU’s preparedness to a new level. The Committee of the Regions (CoR) provided an opinion shortly after lead by Neil Swannick (UK/PES) on an ‘EU Strategy For Adaptation To Climate Change’ (2013). A review of the EU Adaptation Strategy is now foreseen by the EC and shall be published in 2018 (spring or autumn) – the CoR is willing to contribute through an own-initiative opinion entitled ‘ Towards a new EU climate change adaptation strategy – taking an integrated approach ’.
Adaptation to climate change, together with mitigation, has been included in all relevant EU funding programmes for 2014-2020, in line with the objective of spending at least 20% of the EU budget – as much as €180 billion – on climate-related actions. This funding includes €864 million available through the LIFE sub-programme for Climate Action for projects targeting both mitigation and adaptation efforts.