Information on climate change has improved — but not enough
Policy-makers and citizens alike need sound information to make the right decisions. Scientific understanding of climate change and its regional impacts is crucial if we are to design and deploy the best possible climate change adaptation measures.
Some EU members, including Denmark, Finland, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, have already undertaken national vulnerability assessments to underpin their adaptation plans. But to comprehend fully the issues at stake we need more national and regional vulnerability assessments across key economic sectors and environmental themes, using appropriate analytical tools such as spatial planning.
More research and coordinated analysis is required to build up baseline data sets and models. It would be useful, for example, to conduct a regional hindcast of Europe’s climate and to link improved hydrological models with climate change ones. Only in this way can we address fundamental questions, such as whether the lack of water in a region is due to low precipitation or poor management.
The economic costs of adapting to climate change impacts are increasingly influence the policy debate and decision making. Information on these issues is essential to determine the most cost-effective and proportionate actions. Economic costs provide a common measure to assess and monitor adaptation actions across sectors. Further work is urgently needed, therefore, to improve cost estimates.
Good practice in adaptation actions, particularly those coping with current extreme weather events, must be documented and shared. The European Environment Agency keeps an overview of actions by Member States in the water sector. To be effective this needs to be regularly updated by the relevant local and national organisations and extended to new Member States and other sectors.
Information is also available from other international bodies. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for example, have extensive data on vulnerability and adaptation. This information needs to be made more widely available.
Finally, results from research programmes are seldom presented to policy-makers and other stakeholders in a form that they can understand. There are some good examples, such as the ESPACE (European Spatial Planning: Adapting to Climate Events) and BRANCH (Biodiversity Requires Adaptation in Northwest Europe under a Changing climate) projects under the INTERREG Community programme. But overall, there is an urgent need for projects that can help provide the right policy guidance and tools, and build effective transnational and sub-national networks.
R. Uhel and S. Isoard, 2008. ' Regional adaptation to climate change: a European spatial planning challenge', InfoRegio Panorama, Nr. 25 - March 2008
EEA, 2008. Impacts of Europe's changing climate – 2008 indicator-based assessment. European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.