Employers and trade unions join with NGOs: climate change prep is now urgent

This page is also available in

The new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change is a crucial step towards achieving climate neutrality and resilience by 2050. European civil society strongly supports the Commission's commitment to strengthening efforts on climate proofing, resilience building, prevention and preparedness. The floods occurring in Western Europe, just weeks after a record-breaking heatwave in the US and Canada, are fresh reminders of the pace of change.

In its opinion on the new strategy, adopted at the plenary session in July, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) stressed that adaptation, with equity at its core, is critical to protecting European citizens' lives and livelihoods, especially those of the more vulnerable, so that we leave no-one behind.

Therefore the EESC stresses the need for equal emphasis on financing mitigation and adaptation, as well as specific adaptation guidelines, monitoring tools, benchmarks and indicators. The strategy needs concrete and measurable targets, legally binding measures and deadlines. Such tools will help provide transparency, and assess the progress of climate adaptation, while building local, national and regional capacity.

The Committee also calls for specific additional actions for vulnerable groups of stakeholders, with a particular focus on gender, age and minority groups, and calls for the involvement of the social partners in order to bring about adaptation in the world of work, outlined Isabel Caño Aguilar, study group president.

The bioeconomy and the transition to a circular economy are essential and concrete climate adaptation approaches as Europe recovers.

The EU needs to further enable and emphasize the importance of innovation, investment and trade that enhance sustainable development. Climate adaptation and its costs must also be an integral part of the EU's industrial strategy, says Dimitris Dimitriadis, EESC rapporteur for this opinion.

Where to find the resources for adaptation measures?

The human and economic costs of climate-related disasters are massive – economic losses in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The UN report on the Human Cost of Disasters paints a stark picture: "Over the last twenty years, 7 348 disaster events were recorded, which claimed approximately 1.23 million lives and affected a total of over 4 billion people. Additionally, disasters led to approximately US$ 2.97 trillion in economic losses worldwide."

There are several existing sources of EU funding to finance adaptation – including the European Green Deal, the MFF and NextGenerationEU – and the EESC calls for more clarity on the different options, as well as user-friendly procedures to ensure timely access to financing at a practical level.

In addition, the abolition of fossil fuel subsidies and a green fiscal reform would free up considerable resources from public budgets, address systemic inconsistencies, and generate new revenues to finance climate adaptation, emphasizes co-rapporteur Kęstutis Kupšys.

In order for the Union to emerge as a global standard-setter in the field of sustainable finance, the Commission should keep the bar high and follow science-based and technology-neutrality principles, including in the EU Taxonomy.

Background

Mitigation is a human intervention to reduce GHG emissions and/or enhance carbon sinks. Adaptation is adjusting to the current and future effects of climate change. Even if we were able to reduce 100% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions today, it would not stop the climate impacts that are already occurring, and which are likely to continue for decades.

Accordingly, the European Commission has adopted the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, following a 2018 evaluation of the previous 2013 Strategy. The conclusion was that not enough progress had been made, due to gaps in data; weaknesses in planning, monitoring, reporting and evaluating; slow-paced action as a result of inadequate public and private-sector investment; a failure to address climate impacts generated outside the EU; and the voluntary nature of the MS commitments at the time.

The aim of the strategy is therefore to redress the shortcomings of the previous strategy, to shift the focus from understanding the problem to developing solutions, and to move from planning to implementation.

See also