Number of countries that have adopted a climate change adaptation strategy/plan

Briefing Published 09 Dec 2016 Last modified 30 Aug 2019
5 min read
Photo: © Public domain

This item is open for comments. Login with your Eionet account in order to see and add comments. See comments section below

This is an old version, kept for reference only.

Go to latest version

The Seventh Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) calls for decisive progress to be made in adapting to the impact of climate change. Climate change has had and will have many impacts on the environment, human health and the economy. Adaptation of Europe’s society to climate change is necessary to address the adverse impacts of climate change and complement efforts to mitigate climate change. Action to mitigate climate change and adapt to it will increase the resilience of the EU’s economy and society, while stimulating innovation and protecting the EU’s natural resources. To date, 20 EU Member States have adopted a national adaptation strategy (NAS) and nine have developed a national adaptation plan (NAP). There has been an increase in the number of countries that have adopted national adaptation strategies and/or plans and this is expected to continue and to deepen, with additional countries adopting follow-up adaptation policies and implementation plans. However, information on the progress of these policies in reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience is limited, so the outlook towards 2020 for this 7th EAP objective remains uncertain.


EU indicator past trend

Selected objective to be met by 2020

Indicative outlook of the EU meeting the selected objective by 2020

Number of countries that have adopted a climate change adaptation strategy and/or plan


Make decisive progress in adapting to the impact of climate change — 7th EAP

Stable or unclear trend

There has been an increase in the number of countries that have adopted a national adaptation strategy and/or plan and this is expected to continue. However information on the 'decisive progress' of these policies towards reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience to climate change is limited, preventing firm conclusions with respect to the 2020 outlook

For further information on the scoreboard methodology please see Box I.1 in the EEA Environmental indicator report 2016

Setting the Scene

The 7th EAP calls for decisive progress to be made in adapting to climate change to make Europe more climate resilient (EU, 2013). Climate change impacts can be seen in global sea level rise, changes in precipitation (e.g. increases in northern and north-western Europe and decreases in southern Europe), decreasing snow cover, glaciers, sea ice and ice sheets. These changes lead to a wide range of often adverse impacts on environmental systems, economic sectors, and human health and well-being in Europe (EEA, 2012 and 2016; IPCC, 2014). Climate change adaptation addresses the adverse effects of climate change and builds resilience to reduce vulnerabilities and risks to the environment, human health and the economy (including infrastructure).

Policy targets and progress

The European Commission’s White Paper (EC, 2009) and EU strategy on adaptation to climate change (EC, 2013) encourage all Member States to adopt comprehensive adaptation strategies. The strategy promotes action in cities and the mainstreaming of adaptation in relevant EU policies and programmes. In addition, it provides funding for actions, enhances research under the Horizon 2020 programme for environment and climate action, and promotes information sharing through the European Climate Adaptation Platform. In 2017, the European Commission will assess whether or not the action being taken in the Member States is sufficient. If it deems progress to be insufficient, by reference to the coverage and quality of the national strategies, the Commission will consider proposing a legally binding instrument (EC, 2013). That 2017 report will include an adaptation preparedness scoreboard, with key process-based indicators for measuring Member States’ levels of readiness.

NASs usually address overarching issues that allow them to position adaptation on the policy agenda. These strategies recognise the importance of expected climate change impacts and the need to adapt, and they facilitate the process of coordinating the adaptation response, increasing awareness of adaptation and stakeholder involvement, assessing risks and vulnerabilities, and identifying knowledge gaps.

NAPs usually aim to implement NASs and to organise activities for achieving their objectives, typically through sectoral implementation. Although adaptation implementation at national level is still at an early stage, adaptation planning work is under way in most countries.

Country level information

Table 1 provides an overview of progress with the adoption of national and sectoral climate change adaptation strategies and plans by EEA member countries. To date, 20 EU Member States and three other EEA member countries have adopted NASs. In addition, nine EU Member States and three other EEA member countries have developed NAPs. Table 1 shows that over the last 5 years there has been a steady increase in the number of NASs and NAPs being adopted by EU Member States and other EEA member countries, and this is expected to continue towards 2020, with additional countries adopting strategies and plans as well as implementing more specific adaptation policies and actions in line with their strategies and plans.

Table 1. Overview of national and sectoral climate change adaptation strategies and plans, by country

EEA, 2014, information reported by EU Member States under the European mechanism for monitoring and reporting information relevant to climate change (Regulation (EU) No 525/2013) and for other EEA Member countries information provided on a voluntary basis to the EEA as of May 2016.

Regarding the implementing of adaptation policies and actions, most progress has been reported for freshwater management, flood risk management, agriculture and forestry. The adaptation actions in these sectors have mostly consisted of mainstreaming adaptation priorities into these national sectoral policy areas. Several countries have also developed national health strategies and action plans, including early warning systems for heatwaves and enhanced surveillance of infectious diseases (EEA, 2014).

A limited number of countries have started to monitor and report on adaptation policies and actions at national level (EEA, 2014). So far, even fewer countries evaluate adaptation policies at national level; there are various reasons, including the fact that implementation of adaptation has only just begun (EEA, 2015). The countries that monitor these use mainly ‘process-based’ methods, assessing to what extent agreed stages in the process of taking actions have taken place. Very few countries use ‘outcome-based’ approaches, assessing if and how vulnerability has decreased and/or resilience has increased, because this is methodologically very complex and also resource intensive. It will therefore not be possible to determine with any certainty whether or not decisive progress in adapting to the impact of climate change can be achieved by 2020.

Transnational cooperation in adaptation to climate change has increased with the recognition of the importance of adaptation as a cross-cutting policy area. Adaptation actions take place, for example, within the EU Baltic Sea region strategy, the Danube Commission and the Carpathian and Alpine conventions. Adaptation action is often linked to the sharing of natural resources such as transboundary water catchments (EEA, 2016).

Adaptation policy will receive new EU financial resources in the coming years. Of the EU budget for 2014–2020, 20 % will be used for climate-related actions (i.e. adaptation and climate change mitigation).

Outlook beyond 2020

Because of expected future climate change impacts, efforts to adapt to climate change and to make Europe more climate resilient need to be strengthened in future. NASs and NAPs, together with the EU’s 2013 adaptation strategy, are expected to be further implemented, and mainstreaming of climate change adaptation in policies is expected to continue. Key global agreements that can also enhance action on adaptation in Europe include the Paris Agreement (UNFCCC, 2015), which requires countries to take adaptation action, complementary to climate change mitigation action, and the 2015 UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR, 2015), which acknowledges climate change as one of the drivers of disaster risk and requires countries to take risk prevention and reduction measures. 

About the indicator

This indicator shows the number of Member States that have adopted an adaptation strategy and/or plan and indicates how many countries have made progress on adapting to climate change by setting this issue on the policy agenda (through strategies). Many of these action plans have been in place for only a few years (see Table 1), so implementation has started rather recently. There is limited quantitative information available, and in only a few countries, on the effectiveness of adaptation strategies and plans regarding enhanced resilience and reduced vulnerabilities and risks. This indicator is therefore not yet able to show the effectiveness of these strategies and plans in making Europe more climate resilient. More information on this is expected to become available in future when more countries implement monitoring, reporting and evaluation adaptation schemes.

Footnotes and references

(1) N.A. It is not possible to measure a trend, since this is a binary measure, i.e. whether or not a policy has been adopted.

EC, 2009, White Paper ‘Adapting to climate change: Towards a European framework for action’, Brussels (COM(2009) 147/4).

EC, 2013, Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions ‘An EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change’ (COM(2013) 216 final of 16 April 2013).

EEA, 2012,Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2012 — An indicator-based report, EEA Report No 12/2012, European Environment Agency.

EEA, 2014,National adaptation policy processes in European countries — 2014, EEA Report No 4/2014, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.  

EEA, 2015,National monitoring, reporting and evaluation of climate change adaptation in Europe, EEA Technical Report No 20/2015, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen.

EEA, 2016,Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2016 — An indicator-based report, European Environment Agency, Copenhagen, forthcoming.

EU, 2013, Decision No 1386/2013/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’ (OJ L 354/171, 28.12.2013), Annex A, paragraphs 45 and 54.

IPCC, 2014,Climate change 2014: Impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability — Working Group II Contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom, and New York, NY, USA.

UNFCCC, 2015,Report of the Conference of the Parties on its twenty-first session, held in Paris from 30 November to 13 December 2015, Adoption of the Paris Agreement, UNFCCC, Bonn, /CP/2015/10/Add.1.

UNISDR, 2015,Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, Geneva.

Environmental indicator report 2016 – In support to the monitoring of the 7th Environment Action Programme, EEA report No30/2016, European Environment Agency


Geographic coverage

Temporal coverage



Filed under:
Filed under: adaptation plans


Document Actions