Warming Europe ‘must adapt water strategy’

European countries must start preparing for the water shortages, floods and droughts likely to be brought on by climate change, the EU has warned.

As representatives from member states met in Berlin to discuss the impacts of climate change on Europe’s water sector this week, Environment Council president Sigmar Gabriel stressed the need to factor climate change into long-term water resource plans across the EU.

“We must learn to consistently take the impacts of climate change, especially on the water balance, into account when making long-term decisions, for example with regard to infrastructure or regional development,” he said.

Global warming is already affecting seasonal and regional precipitation patterns, causing glaciers to recede in the Alps and sea levels to rise. EU member states must start preparing for more intense and frequent floods, droughts and gradual changes in the water balance that are likely to follow, Sigmar Gabriel told the European Symposium on climate change and water resources.

“Even if we succeed in reducing the increase in greenhouse gas emissions to an extent that allows the global rise in temperature to be limited to an average of 2 degrees Celsius, we will still be faced with serious consequences,” he said.

The symposium precedes an EU Green Paper on adaptation to climate change that the European Commission is to publish by the end of the year.

DG Environment director-general Mogens Peter Carl said: “We first have to make more efficient use of available water resources and reduce our consumption before we start tapping new sources.”

He said the Commission “is considering a range of additional measures, for example a Europe-wide initiative on saving water in all other areas such as private households and industry.”

Goska Romanowicz

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