That is the message in a European Commission green paper published this month, which sets out ways Europe can adapt to climate change and reduce the threat to people, economies and the environment.

Environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said: “People all over Europe will increasingly feel the threatening effects of climate change on their health, jobs and housing and the most vulnerable members of society will be the hardest hit.

“We need to fight the battle against climate change on two fronts. We must sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to prevent future climate change from reaching dangerous levels, but at the same time adapt to the climate change that is already happening.”

Examples of action to cope with changing climatic conditions include using scarce water resources more efficiently and ensuring the frail and elderly are properly cared for during heatwaves.

The publication of the discussion a paper, which also advocates a European advisory group on adaptation to climate change, came ahead of a major conference hosted by the commission in Brussels on Wednesday (July 3).

Consultation on it will last until November with a commission communication on adaptation to climate change expected by the end of 2008.

“Unless the EU and its member states plan a coherent policy response in advance, we could be forced into taking sudden, unplanned adaptation measures to react to increasingly frequent crises and disasters,” Mr Dimas warned. “This would prove far more costly.”

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) welcomed the green paper.

Joël Decaillon, confederal secretary, said: “Even on the optimistic assumption of global warming being limited to 2°C, large numbers of jobs will come under threat in Europe. On top of that, more frequent heatwaves might increase health risks for employees working outdoors.”

Europe has already warmed by almost 1°C over the past century with trends indicating a further rise of between two and four degrees this century.

David Gibbs

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