Floods and droughts force EU climate action

Extreme weather conditions are forcing European Governments to reassess their climate change policies, but most countries have identified barriers to taking action, a report has found.

A total of 30 countries responded to a survey from the European Environmental Agency (EEA), with 24 claiming that climate change adaptation is now on the national agenda. (Scroll down for full report).

An overwhelming majority (28 of 30) said extreme weather was driving this change, while 19 countries also identified climate change adaptation policies being enforced by the EU as an important influence.

The survey may be stating the obvious for British businesses which were severely afflicted by last winter’s floods, with Government advisers warning in the aftermath that the country was still not spending enough on flood defences.

“None of us can afford to continue with our heads in the sand – flooding is here to stay,” warned Dr Tim Harries, a leading expert on the public response to flood-risk based at Kingston University. “We must get better at dealing with this type of weather.”

Concerned enough?

Given the UK’s flood issues, concerted European action on environmental policy could be overdue, but most countries identified barriers to taking action, with more than three quarters of countries citing a lack of resources such as time, money or technologies.

‘Uncertainties about the extent of future climate change’ and ‘unclear responsibilities’ were also seen as barriers by a large number of countries.

As a result, less than half the countries reported a high or very high willingness to develop policies and to adapt at the national level, despite the EEA assertion that “climate change is expected to affect Europe with increased floods, droughts, heatwaves, rising sea levels and other widespread environmental changes, such as changing species distribution and crop growing seasons”.

EEA executive director Hans Bruyninckx said: “This is the first time European countries’ adaptation efforts have been analysed comprehensively.

“Attention is often on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and for good reason. But adaptation is inevitable, so it is positive that there is now political focus on this issue across Europe. Many countries now need to turn plans into action.”

EU National Adaptation Policy Processes

Brad Allen

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