European Commission ups its game on adaptation, but the strategy lacks teeth to protect societies against worsening climate change

Climate action

The European Commission presented its updated climate change adaptation strategy today. Besides much-needed mitigation efforts, the EU must step up its game on adaptation, as impacts of climate change are already hitting communities and the most vulnerable hardest.

“2020 was Europe’s warmest year on record at 1.6°C above the pre-industrial times, and extreme heat waves, forest fires, and windstorms were wreaking havoc across Europe. And outside Europe, developing countries are the ones being hit hardest by climate impacts. The EU’s Adaptation Strategy must rapidly translate into more robust action on adaptation at home, and scale-up the right kind of support that developing countries desperately need” said Wendel Trio, Director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe.

The strategy rightly recognises the threat dangerous climate change poses on our societies, economies and ecosystems already. If stronger mitigation measures are key to avoid dangerous climate change in the short term, the EU must also protect communities from its ongoing, harmful effects.

Within the European Union, the European Commission’s Research Centre estimates that economic costs of runaway climate change will amount to more than 175 billion euros per year by mid century. The proposed Adaptation Strategy recognises that more systemic adaptation policies are needed at all sectors and levels, and that existing adaptation strategies and plans must be drastically improved. However it falls short of the binding means to achieve the set objective. Ensuring the EU’s preparedness against hazardous climate change should at least require the development of mandatory adaptation plans, climate vulnerability assessments and climate stress tests at local, regional, and national levels.

Outside the EU least developed countries and small island developing states are hit hardest by climate change impacts, on top of being more vulnerable to economic shocks, inequalities and the COVID 19 health crisis. The EU Adaptation Strategy acknowledges the need for additional international finance for climate change adaptation, including from public sources, and will aim to increase finance for adaptation through the EU instruments for external action. However, the strategy fails to clarify how exactly it will unlock barriers to accessing finance for the most vulnerable communities and does not include proposals for integration of gender and tackling inequalities. Grants-based finance for adaptation should be essential.

Rachel Simon, climate and development policy coordinator at CAN Europe added: “To support resilience-building in response to global crises, the Adaptation Strategy should ensure increased levels of grants-based support for adaptation aiming at empowering communities, women and girls who are at the frontline of the climate crisis. Collectively the EU and Member States should advance strong commitments on adaptation finance at international level, achieving a 50% balance in mitigation and adaptation finance, and prioritise grants rather than loans.”


Nicolas Derobert, CAN Europe Head of communications,, +32 483 62 18 88

Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe is Europe’s leading NGO coalition fighting dangerous climate change. With over 170 member organisations from 38 European countries, representing over 1.500 NGOs and more than 47 million citizens, CAN Europe promotes sustainable climate, energy and development policies throughout Europe.


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