“Time to Adapt is the strident call of a report from the European Environment Agency. The report Adaptation in Europe is subtitled Addressing risks and opportunities from climate change in the context of socio-economic developments.
The report points out that
Climate change is now a major part of planning for the future. Around the world, the extent and speed of change is becoming ever more evident and as reported in the EEA’s 2012 Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe, climate change is already causing a wide range of impacts on society and the environment.
This is powerful stuff:
Adaptation is not simply about doing more, it is about new ways of thinking and dealing with risk and hazards, uncertainty and complexity. It will require greater public participation to address questions of social need and to find suitable adaptation pathways. European society has the opportunity to heed the lessons of past experience and adopt a precautionary approach, anticipating and minimising many future hazards whilst stimulating innovation. Climate adaptation requires precautionary science and approaches, with an emphasis on probability and multiple reactive thresholds, rather than a reliance on the statistics of the past.
No shrinking violets or climate change deniers here!
Some of the report’s conclusions, material to Canada just as much as to Europe, include:
- Society is set to face many changes, including to its economy, population, environment, and climate. Adapting to these changes is a challenge and an opportunity and will require strengthening the resilience and adaptive capacity of economic sectors, cities and businesses. Adaptation provides an opportunity for synergies and spill‑over benefits when implementing adaptation measures in a coherent way, by ensuring that policies are integrated and working toward similar goals.
- A key challenge for adaptation policy is to ensure policy coherence across many sectoral policies, integrating efforts to create a sustainable, resource-efficient, green, low-carbon, and climate-resilient economy.
- Adaptation policy responses ought to be tailor‑made to address regional and local conditions and needs, and reject a one-size fits all approach. These responses must consider contextual factors such as socio-economic, technological, cultural, environmental and policy processes.
- Adaptation policy responses ought to be flexible in taking into account the progress made in the scientific understanding of disaster risks, decadal climate variability, and long-term climate and socio-economic changes. This understanding is evolving and lessons are being learned from implementing actions. Adaptation policy must be flexible enough to deal with this. It is important to adopt an ‘adaptive management’ approach, which means adjusting our plans to these conditions as they unfold, taking account of uncertainty over future developments, and constantly updating adaptation policy with new information from monitoring, evaluation and learning.
- This flexibility can also be helped by using different types of adaptation measures. For example, implementing a combination of ‘grey’ (i.e. technological and engineering solutions), ‘green’ (i.e. ecosystembased approaches) and ‘soft’ (i.e. managerial, legal and policy approaches) adaptation options is often a good way to deal with the inter-connections between natural systems and social systems.
- The involvement of stakeholders (policymakers, NGOs, businesses, citizens) is important in creating a sense of ‘ownership’ in adaptation policy, a critical factor in the success of adaptation implementation. Stakeholder involvement also helps to improve the coherence of adaptation actions and builds adaptive capacity in the wider society. Further guidance on how to best involve stakeholders would be helpful to adaptation policymakers and other stakeholders alike.
- Multi-level governance bridges the gaps between the different levels of policy and decision-making and provides opportunities for ensuring key actors are involved. It is also important that all levels of governance participate in adaptation implementation in a coordinated and coherent way.
The 106 page report can be downloaded from http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/europe-must-adapt-to-stay