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Climate change in the context of development cooperation

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Climate change in the context of development cooperation

The aim of this communication is to assist the developing countries in reconciling their needs for economic development - and hence for industrialisation - with the protection of the environment and sustainable use of energy and natural resources. The Commission proposes to help them meet the challenges posed by climate change in particular by supporting them in the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. It proposes a strategy based on support for adaptation and mitigation, and on building the capacity of these countries to adapt their policy towards the environment and above all towards air pollution.


Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Climate change in the context of development cooperation [COM(2003) 85 final -Official Journal C/2004/76].


Climate change is not only an environmental problem. It is also clearly a development problem since its adverse effects will disproportionately affect poorer countries with economies predominantly based on natural resources and related economic sectors (agriculture, forestry and fisheries). Yet even countries with more diversified economies are vulnerable to climate change. It is therefore in the general interest to promote, in the partner countries as well, sustainable trends in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), the greatest culprits of climate change.

This strategy is divided into three subsectors. The first sets out the overall objective and guiding principles, the second sets four strategic priorities (attach greater economic importance to climate change, support adaptation, support mitigation, capacity building) and the third describes the proposed responses for the EU partner countries. An action plan in Annex I translates strategic recommendations into practical measures (see related acts).

Context and consequences of world climate change

Scientists predict the rise of global average surface temperatures by another 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years. This projected rate of warming is the highest in 10 000 years. It is predicted to have strong adverse effects through rising sea levels, more irregular precipitation and an increase in extreme weather events like droughts and storms.

At international level, global climate change has its place on the agenda for sustainable development. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which came into force in 1994, and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, had established the link between environment and development. The Monterrey Conference in 2002 stressed the need to mobilise and increase the effective use of financial resources to eliminate poverty, improve social conditions, raise living standards and protect the environment. Lastly, at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), which took place in Johannesburg at the end of August 2002, five priorities which are connected to climate change were identified: water, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity.

At European level, too, environmental concerns form an integral part of development strategies: at the Cardiff and Vienna summits in 1998, a process intended to promote the mainstreaming of the environment in all Community policy areas was launched. This document clearly establishes the link between poverty and climate change and proposes an integrated strategy to address climate change and poverty reduction. Furthermore, the Commission invites the Member States, European Parliament, civil society and other stakeholders to contribute to the formulation and implementation of a coherent and coordinated EU climate change strategy and action plan to support partner countries, on the basis of the objectives, strategy and action plan proposed in this paper.

Effects of climate change on the partner countries

The capacity to adapt to climate change is determined by factors such as economic resources and other assets, technology and information, infrastructure and stable and effective institutions. Since many partner countries are poorly endowed with these attributes and are consequently highly vulnerable to climate change, the enhancement of their adaptive capacity is therefore likely both to reduce vulnerability to climate change and promote sustainable development.

Adverse effects on ecosystems, natural resources and related economic sectors will affect poor people hardest. Climate change could cause many complex alterations: a shift in temperature zones caused by climate change could lead to the extinction of species in many locations while many areas where the warm seasons will become dryer will be at risk of land degradation, drought and desertification.

In the short-term food security could be affected by projected increases and severity of extreme weather events, whereas in the longer term it could be affected by the climate change that has been projected for the period 2050-80 in current food-insecure areas.

Changes in temperatures and precipitation are also likely to increase the geographic range of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, cholera and diarrhoea. The loss of low-lying landmass in coastal areas, which could be ravaged by severe storms and increased sea-level rise is likely to lead to displacement of populations, loss of life and damage to infrastructure.

To address the challenge of climate change the partner countries can adapt to these changes and mitigate the cause: GHG emissions. Some of these adaptation goals involve improving the design of infrastructure and increasing long-term investments, increasing the flexibility of vulnerable systems (e.g. changing activity or location) and improving the preparedness and awareness of society.

Overall objective and strategic priorities

The overall objective of this strategy is to assist EU partner countries in meeting the challenges posed by climate change, in particular by supporting them in the implementation of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

In the implementation of this strategy the EU will be guided by principles such as the contribution to the overarching objective of poverty reduction as stated in the EC development policy, the Millennium Development Goals and the outcome of WSSD, policy coherence, complementarity between the Community, the Member States and other donors, primacy of national ownership of development strategies, and broad stakeholder participation in the implementation process.

On the basis of these principles, the Commission proposes that EU development cooperation should focus on the following four strategic priorities:

  • raising the policy profile of climate change, both during dialogue and also in cooperation with the partner countries and within the Community;
  • support for adaptation to climate change;
  • support for mitigation of climate change;
  • capacity development.

Many of the countries which are most vulnerable to climate change are already under stress with respect to current climate variability. Addressing vulnerability to the current climate is therefore a logical first step in adaptation to climate change. The EU will support adaptation measures to current climate and its variability, for example by feasible cost-effective adaptation in the form of "no-regrets" measures, i.e. measures that have benefits also for non-climatic stresses. It will promote research and scientific cooperation which would help the developing countries move towards sustainable development. Climate change is one of the priorities in the 6th Framework Programme for Research (2002-2006).

Even though mitigation options can be explored in all sectors of the economy, as far as developing countries are concerned the greater potential for emission reductions through mitigation activities, with good ancillary benefits in terms of sustainable development, exist primarily in the areas of energy supply, energy use and transport. The EU will therefore strengthen its support for actions for the mitigation of GHG emissions, emphasising these three areas.

It is essential to develop the partner countries' capacity for the implementation of both the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. It is important to raise awareness about the opportunities offered by these two instruments and the challenge of climate change.

Indicative strategic responses for EU partner countries

A first attempt to identify such possible response strategies for EU partner countries is given in Annex II. Since these proposals are only for guidance purposes they do not exclude any country from identifying any additional priority and obtaining development assistance for it. They should be regularly reviewed, in particular following the results of future negotiations for the second commitment period.

These EU strategic responses offer several advantages: they are a useful point of departure for any discussion with partner countries regarding their particular needs for coping with climate change, and they may provide a tool for identifying possible synergies with ongoing projects in related sectors such as forest conservation, sustainable natural resources management, transport, energy and rural development.


Conclusions of the General Affairs and External Relations Council meeting of 22 November 2004, on climate change in the context of development cooperation. Action Plan 2004-2008 [Not published in the Official Journal].

At this meeting the General Affairs and External Relations Council adopted the Action Plan that focuses on the strategic priorities mentioned in the communication. Provision is also made for monitoring and evaluating the Action Plan with a bi-annual evaluation report. Following the first bi-annual report, which should be ready by the end of 2006, the Council will review implementation of the Action Plan in 2007 and consider further action beyond 2008, which currently marks the end of its implementation. With a view to stepping up dialogue and cooperation with the partner countries, within the Community and with other donors, EU cooperation agreements will include the EU strategy on climate change and development cooperation, the visibility of EU programmes in this area will be raised and the Commission will expand the on-going dialogue with the EIB, the EBRD and other regional financial organisations. As regards support for adaptation, the developing countries have to be helped to mainstream the management of climate risks in the planning process. It is essential, for example, to support a coherent and coordinated EU development policy, knowledge management for sustainable natural resources management and research work on impacts, vulnerability and risk evaluation. The partner countries also need to be helped to adopt development paths leading to low greenhouse gas emissions, assess the advantages of environmentally friendly technologies through research, facilitate the pooling of information on these technologies, and so on. Lastly, the strategic objective concerning capacity development is designed to raise public awareness in the partner countries and to strengthen human and institutional capacities in the partner countries for the implementation of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol.

Last updated: 14.06.2006