European Union

The EU strategy on adaptation to climate change was adopted on 16 April 2013. The overall aim of the Strategy is to contribute to a more climate resilient Europe. To achieve this, the strategy focuses on 3 key aspects:

  • promoting initiatives at Member State level;
  • better-informed decision-making;
  • taking better account of adaptation in the most vulnerable sectors (‘climate proofing’).

In 2016, the European Commission launched a process to evaluate the implementation of its Adaptation Strategy. This evaluation, completed in November 2018, indicates that the strategy has met its objectives. However, the report indicates that Europe remains highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

In accordance with the Strategy, an evaluation of the implementation of Member States’ national adaptation strategies was carried out on the basis of a scoreboard. The aggregated scoreboard for the 28 Member States indicates that most Member States (including Belgium) have made good progress in the first three stages of the adaptation process (i.e. “Preparing the ground for adaptation”; “Assessing risks and vulnerabilities” and “Identifying adaptation options”), but that further work is needed in the last two stages (“Implementation” and “Monitoring and reporting”).

The European Green deal, an integrated and cross-cutting strategy covering almost all policy areas, was first presented at the annual international climate summit (COP25 in Madrid) at the end of 2019.

This ambitious plan aims to address key environmental, climate, biodiversity and sustainable development challenges in a socially equitable way, using the Just Transition Mechanism. The aim is to make Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050. In order to turn this political commitment into a legal obligation, the first European Climate Law was introduced. This law provides a legal framework for a gradual and, above all, irreversible reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time stimulating the absorption of greenhouse gases by natural and other carbon sinks. It is also intended to step up efforts to adapt to climate change.

Several other initiatives are being prepared in the framework of the European Green Deal, including in particular the launch of the new, more ambitious EU Adaptation Strategy, published by the European Commission on February 24, 2021, with the overall goal of increasing resilience to the effects of climate change and making Europe a climate-resilient society by 2050. To achieve this, the Commission aspires to a faster, smarter and more systematic approach with an additional focus on international cooperation due to the borderless nature of climate change.  The Commission emphasises on working out solutions and moving on to concrete actions.

The European Regulation 525/2013 (on the mechanism for monitoring greenhouse gas emissions and for reporting other information relating to climate change) requires Member States to report information on their national adaptation strategies to the European Commission. Belgium’s 2nd report was finalised on 15 March 2019.

Through its initiative “Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy“, the European Commission encourages cities to commit to taking action to adapt to climate change.

Finally, the EU finances adaptation through various instruments such as the five European Structural and Investment Funds, the Life instrument and the EU Solidarity Fund for natural disasters.