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A better understanding of the costs and benefits of adaptation measures to counter climate change is needed according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) briefing which assesses the main methods, challenges and constraints in taking action.
There is an urgent need to speed up the implementation of adaptation measures according to the EEA briefing ‘Assessing the costs and benefits of climate change adaptation’. This is due to rising economic losses from weather and climate-related extremes across the EU.
Why measure the benefits and costs of adaptation?
With climate conditions rapidly changing, there is an increasing need for adaptation and social preparedness for climate change. But the resources available to government decision-makers are limited. This means that better understanding is needed about the costs and benefits of adaptive actions — and the costs of adaptation compared to the costs of failing to take action.
Understanding of the concepts involved in assessing the costs and benefits of a successful plan to counter climate extremes is still lacking. Assessing the benefits of such measures needs to take account of the reduced impact of natural hazards but also how such measures contribute to economic development or other benefits, for example, to biodiversity, air quality, water management, greenhouse gas emission reductions as well as health and well-being.
Gaining this understanding is challenging. One problem is limited access to information on adaptation expenditure at national and regional level. Another has to do with difficulties in calculating the economic, social and environmental impacts of climate change.
The briefing notes that current data do not allow for a systemic assessment of all programmes of measures affecting a given sector or area. Further, current knowledge does not allow easy comparison between the costs and benefits of adaptive actions across various economic sectors. This indicates a need for methodological improvements in benefit-cost analysis.