Climate risk assessments that take account of threats like heatwaves, droughts, floods and wildfires are increasingly being used to inform and improve national adaptation policies according to the latest European Environment Agency (EEA) assessment of national adaptation actions published.
The EEA briefing ‘Is Europe on track towards climate resilience? Status of reported national adaptation actions in 2023,’ presents the current state of play of national adaptation policies. It looks at recent developments and lessons learned over the past two years. Heatwaves, droughts, floods and increasing wildfires were the top extreme weather events reported by national authorities. Many countries also reported that they expected an increase of frequency and intensity of these events.
This is the second such EEA assessment on EU Member States' national adaptation actions. It is based on national reporting submitted to the European Commission (under the Governance of the Energy Union and Climate Action Regulation). Where possible, the briefing also compares adaptation actions with earlier information to describe progress between 2021 and 2023. The assessment is complemented by voluntary submissions of two EEA member countries, Iceland and Switzerland.
Progress on adaptation
Almost half of the reporting countries have delivered new national climate risk assessments since 2021, although countries with legal obligations for repeated climate risk assessments are still an exception. Based on the reported information, a minority of countries are yet to produce their first comprehensive national risk assessment. The assessments are increasingly used to inform adaptation policy development.
The briefing also found:
- A gradually evolving adaptation policy landscape, where climate laws are increasingly emerging as an instrument to give greater legal power to such policies. Nine new national adaptation strategies and/or plans have been approved and adopted by countries since 2021.
- Sub-national adaptation policymaking is further progressing in all countries, mostly due to voluntary and bottom-up initiatives.
- Governance-related challenges like difficulties in coordination due to limitations in financial, technical and human capacities are a persistent barrier to the implementation of adaptation actions in many countries, even where well-developed governance frameworks are in place.
- EU funds play a major role in financing adaptation action for most Member States. Only a few Member States reported standalone national fund dedicated to adaptation.
- An indicator-based approach for monitoring, reporting and evaluation is often reported, although the indicator types and how they contribute to evaluation purposes are not always clear.
Economic losses due to weather, climate-related extremes grows
According to a recently updated EEA indicator, between 1980 and 2022, weather- and climate-related extremes caused economic losses of assets estimated at EUR 650 billion in EU Member States, of which EUR 59.4 billion in 2021 and EUR 52.3 billion in 2022.
Analysing trends in economic losses is difficult, partly because of high variability from year to year. Some analysis has revealed, however, that economic losses increase over time. As severe weather- and climate-related extreme events are expected to intensify further, it seems unlikely that the associated economic losses will reduce over the next decade.
EEA support to EU Climate Law progress reporting
The EEA is at the same time publishing its annual report. Trends and projections in Europe 2023, which details progress made in meeting the EU’s ambitious climate and energy targets. Both are being released at the same time under the EU’s Climate Law Progress Assessment which looks at both mitigation and adaptation efforts across EU Member States.