EU strives for a system-wide response to climate change

Article Published 30 Jan 2009 Last modified 11 May 2021
2 min read
Climate change adaptation must be integrated into policies across all sectors and engage all levels of society. To achieve this, new frameworks and governance structures are needed.

With international recognition of the urgent need to adapt to climate change growing, the European Union is moving fast to deliver a coordinated response. As the European Commission’s Green Paper on Adaptation (2007) makes clear, the EU must integrate its actions across its direct funding mechanisms (including agriculture, cohesion, solidarity and LIFE+ instruments), and across both existing legislation and new policy responses (e.g. the Water Framework Directive and Natura2000).

The EU will further develop and publish its adaptation policy in 2009, building on the opportunities for synergies with other processes. Sectoral policies, such as the Floods Directive and the Communication on Water Scarcity and Droughts, provide a valuable complementary policy framework that directly addresses climate change impacts. Similarly, territorial and regional development programmes are increasingly integrating climate change adaptation elements. In 2007, the EU ministers responsible for spatial development agreed on a 'Territorial Agenda of the European Union' and an 'Action Plan on Territorial Cohesion', in which climate change adaptation is a key issue. For its part, the European Commission published a Green Paper on Territorial Cohesion in October 2008.

The European Union must now adapt its governance structures to deal with the cross-cutting nature of adaptation. As the ESPACE project has made clear, failure to do so will jeopardise the entire adaptation effort. ESPACE plays a crucial rule in making climate change adaptation a core objective in spatial planning and water management by offering policy-makers concrete guidance and tools.

A project of this type could be expanded to other key regions and adaptation issues, such as drought and water scarcity in southern and Mediterranean locations. A first step would be to develop and implement climate change actions in existing strategies and policies. In the context of improved water availability and quality and reduce effects of flooding, for example, the Water Framework Directive (WFD) clearly has an important role. EU Member States need to ensure climate change is embedded in the first river basin management plans drafted pursuant to the Directive, which are due to be adopted in 2010.

Developing and implementing adaptation measures is a relatively new issue. To ensure that such efforts are accepted and successful, stakeholders at all levels should be engaged. That means reaching out to sub-national and local authorities, businesses and citizens alike.


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.



Geographic coverage


Document Actions