Comparative Study of European National Adaptation Strategies

The factors driving climate change adaptation policy development vary significantly across European countries. A common element however is that these developments are fast. At the same time, there is an urgent need for new climate adaptation research that connects innovative science with local, regional and sectoral policy needs. However, with a few exceptions, such research is yet to begin.

Over the last few decades, European countries have focused on the question if climate change is real, and how we can mitigate it. Now, when actual impacts have been observed and more are projected, many countries have started developing national adaptation strategies. How they have done so, which research gaps and policy needs still exist and which lessons are to be learned to develop adaptation policy was studied in this project.

The results of the project show that communication and awareness raising is going to be important to get public support for measures, and to help stakeholders to adapt. Since adaptation is very different from mitigation, communication should be designed specifically for that purpose, including exchange of experiences on adaptation practices.

The researchers also identify a number of common strengths and weaknesses of the current strategies in the countries studied. Strong in most countries is the systematic cross-sectoral approach and the plans to involve all relevant stakeholders in the design and implementation of the strategies. Weak aspect is the fact that little attention has yet been paid to implementation, evaluation, and the allocation of required resources. A key challenge for all countries is to arrange for clear responsibilities at different administrative levels and effective coordination mechanisms between the relevant stakeholders at these levels, from local to European. It could well be that institutional barriers will result to be more important than the technical feasibility of adaptation options and measures.

The research tasks of the project

The project aimed at supporting both European adaptation policy development and the development of national and the European adaptation research agenda. In this context the participating partners formulated the following two major objectives:

  • Policy support: compare characteristics of existing or planned national adaptation strategies and derive innovative ideas for development and implementation of adaptation strategies.
  • Research agenda: on the basis of national strategies, identify interesting new research areas to strengthen national and European research activities in the area of adaptation.

The project focused on six key dimensions of national strategies: drivers, science-policy interactions, communication and awareness raising, multilevel governance issues, integration into sector policies, and evaluation and review. It focused on 13 EU member states.

Research team