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Adaptation to climate change

Climate change, a significant variation of average weather conditions over decades, represents a major human and global challenge. While certain actions can be taken to mitigate climate change (to avoid and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, which leads to global warming), other actions need to be taken in order to adapt to climate change.

Adapting to climate change involves changing our behaviour and ways of doing things to prepare for the unavoidable, so as to be able to protect ourselves, the environment and the economy from the impacts of climate change.

In February 2021, the European Commission published an EU climate adaptation strategy. This aims to complement the various actions taken by the EU to mitigate climate change by defining a strategy to adapt to the effects of climate change. It also seeks to help make the EU not only climate neutral (with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions) but also climate resilient by 2050.

The strategy has the following four main objectives.

  • Smarter adaptation. Actions taken must be informed by robust data and risk assessment tools that are available to all.
  • Faster adaptation. We need to adapt more quickly and comprehensively and to focus on developing and rolling out solutions to help reduce climate-related risk, increase climate protection and safeguard the availability of fresh water.
  • More systemic adaptation. Since climate change will have impacts at all levels of society and across all sectors of the economy, adaptation actions must also be systemic. The strategy will support the further development and implementation of adaptation strategies and plans at all levels of governance, giving priority to integrating adaptation into macro-fiscal policy, nature-based solutions for adaptation and local adaptation action.
  • Stepping up international action on adaptation to climate change. Carried out by scaling up international finance and through stronger global engagement and exchanges on adaptation.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change glossary from 2018 includes the following definitions.

  • Adaptation. In human systems, the process of adjustment to actual or expected climate and its effects, in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In natural systems, the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects; human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects.
  • Resilience. The capacity of social, economic and environmental systems to cope with a hazardous event or trend or disturbance, responding or reorganising in ways that maintain their essential function, identity and structure while also maintaining the capacity for adaptation, learning and transformation.