National adaptation policy processes in European countries — 2014

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This report provides a Europe‑wide state of play for adaptation activities. It offers up‑to‑date and targeted information to support the development, implementation and evaluation of national adaptation policies and measures addressing climate change.

The intended users are policymakers and decision‑makers coordinating adaptation across or within particular sectors. It is also of relevance to practitioners such as public authorities and utility providers (water, energy, transport).

This report draws on the results of a self‑assessment survey conducted on national adaptation policy processes in Europe. In May 2013, the survey was sent out by the European Environment Agency (EEA) to authorities in countries responsible for coordinating adaptation at national level (the 32 EEA member countries, and in Croatia in July 2013 as a new EU Member State and EEA member country). Thirty EEA member countries provided their responses on a voluntary basis. Thanks to the high response rate and the wealth of information provided by these European countries, this report presents a unique collection of information and the largest and most comprehensive analysis of national adaptation policy processes in Europe, to date.

In the context of this report, 'adaptation' refers to actions taken in response to current and future climate change impacts and vulnerabilities (as well as to the climate variability that occurs in the absence of climate change) in the context of ongoing and expected socio-economic developments. It involves not only preventing negative impacts of climate change, but also building resilience and making the most of any benefits it may bring. The earlier adaptation responses are planned, the better equipped society will be to cope with climate change — and socio‑economic — related challenges.

Collecting and analysing information on adaptation policy processes in European countries is essential in order to evaluate the extent to which actions are effective, efficient and equitable. It allows us to understand and determine which adaptation actions work, in what contexts, and why, and to share lessons learned across countries. However, measuring progress in adaptation (e.g. through indicators) is challenging for several reasons: adaptation, context specific and cross‑cutting all sectors of the economy, is characterised by long time‑frames and uncertainty, and does not have agreed targets. Thus, it will be important in coming years to share experiences across countries, and also to monitor and evaluate the progress, effectiveness and efficiency of ongoing and planned EU and national actions.

In 2013, the European Commission adopted the communication 'An EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change' (EC, 2013a) (also commonly known as the EU Adaptation Strategy), which includes several elements to support Member States in adaptation: providing guidance and funding, promoting knowledge generation and information‑sharing, and enhancing resilience of key vulnerable sectors through mainstreaming. In addition, the EU has also agreed that at least 20 % of its budget for the 2014–2020 period should be spent on climate change‑related action, including mitigation and adaptation.

The EU Adaptation Strategy also proposes monitoring and evaluating the status and progress of adaptation in the EU, based on the following: (a) member countries' reporting (e.g. via the EU Monitoring Mechanism Regulation due in March 2015, and national communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)); (b) an adaptation preparedness scoreboard including indicators for measuring member countries' level of readiness; and (c) other sources of information, such as this report or other country surveys recently conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) (e.g. the survey 'Approaches and tools used to support decision‑making for climate change adaptation') or the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe ('Implementing the Commitment to Act in the area of climate change'). In 2017, the European Commission will report to the European Parliament and the Council on the state of implementation of the EU Adaptation Strategy, and propose its review, if needed.

The advancement of adaptation across Europe and the implementation of the EU Adaptation Strategy call for more work to be carried out on existing knowledge gaps. The current report aims to support this process, and constitutes input for the European Union's 7th Environment Action Programme (7EAP) to 2020, and particularly for Priority Objective 5, 'To improve the knowledge and evidence base for Union environment policy'. This report is also a key element in the implementation of the EEA's road map for adaptation (EEA, 2013).

With climate change expected to increase in future (IPCC, 2013; IPCC, 2014) and European countries expected to be exposed to projected effects (depending on climate, geographic and socio‑economic conditions) (EEA, 2012b; EEA, 2013), public authorities play an important role for adaptation action. They hold a key position for protecting our societies and economy from negative effects of climate change and for making the most of opportunities that may arise for our benefit.

European countries are aware of the need for adaptation to climate change: to date, 21 European countries have adopted a national adaptation strategy (NAS) and 12 have developed a national adaptation plan (NAP). More than half of European countries have made progress in identifying and assessing adaptation options, and 13 report that they are in the implementation or the monitoring and evaluation stages of the adaptation policy process. Table ES.1 provides an overview of national and sectoral adaptation strategies and plans in Europe. The analysis of the 30 European countries' responses to the self‑assessment survey led to the following findings. These results are further described in Chapter 2 of this report under eight key topics.

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