Policy brief

How can the European Union adapt to climate change?

A stronger adaptation governance framework would benefit adaptation efforts.

Publishing date
28 June 2022
Countryside

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Reading time: 1 minute

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Europe must increasingly deal with the harmful impacts of climate change, regardless of its success in reducing emissions. These impacts have significant cross-border effects and threaten to deepen existing divisions. Cooperation on adaptation, which is mostly seen as requiring local or regional efforts, may be useful, but the role of the European Union is ill-defined.

We give an overview of how climate change might change Europe and how it might affect people and the economy. We also discuss what sort of adaptation policies are being pursued at EU level and on what grounds. We argue that a stronger adaptation governance framework would benefit adaptation efforts.

We formulate three ideas to strengthen adaptation. First is a three-layered governance framework based on intensive cooperation to establish binding adaptation plans. Second is an EU-level insurance scheme against damages from climate change, with the size of national contributions tied to the achievement of self-chosen targets in adaptation plans. Our final suggestion is to increase ex-ante adaptation funding by targeting more spending under EU regional and agricultural policies specifically to adaptation in the most vulnerable regions.

About the authors

  • Klaas Lenaerts

    Klaas works at Bruegel as a Research Analyst. He holds a Master in Economics from the KU Leuven and in European Economic Studies from the College of Europe. Additionally, he spent one semester at Uppsala University.

    Klaas has a broad background in economics and European affairs. Before joining Bruegel he did a traineeship at the Permanent Representation of Belgium to the EU, where he worked on enlargement discussions, and at the European Securities and Markets Authority in Paris, where he contributed mainly to the work of the Risk Analysis and Economics department on such topics as crypto regulation and sustainable finance.

    His fields of interest include European climate policy and Eurozone governance, as well as external relations and trade. He is fluent in Dutch and English and advanced in French and German.

  • Simone Tagliapietra

    Simone Tagliapietra is a Senior fellow at Bruegel. He is also Adjunct professor of Energy, Climate and Environmental Policy at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore and at The Johns Hopkins University - School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Europe.

    His research focuses on the European Union climate and energy policy and on the political economy of global decarbonisation. With a record of numerous policy and scientific publications, he is the author of Global Energy Fundamentals (Cambridge University Press, 2020), L’Energia del Mondo (Il Mulino, 2020) and Energy Relations in the Euro-Mediterranean (Palgrave, 2017).

    His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media such as the Financial Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde, Die Zeit, Corriere della Sera, Il Sole 24 Ore and others.

    Simone holds a PhD in Institutions and Policies from Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore. Born in the Dolomites in 1988, he speaks Italian, English and French.

  • Guntram B. Wolff

    Guntram Wolff is the Director of Bruegel. Over his career, he has contributed to research on European political economy and governance, fiscal, monetary and financial policy, climate change and geoeconomics. Under his leadership, Bruegel has been regularly ranked among the top global think tanks and has grown in influence and impact with a team of now almost 40 recognized scholars and around 65 total staff. Bruegel is also recognized for its outstanding transparency.

    A recognized thought leader and academic, he regularly testifies at the European Finance Ministers' ECOFIN meeting, the European Parliament, the German Parliament (Bundestag) and the French Parliament (Assemblée Nationale). From 2012-16, he was a member of the French prime minister's Conseil d'Analyse Economique. In 2018, then IMF managing director Christine Lagarde appointed him to the external advisory group on surveillance to review the Fund’s priorities. In 2021, he was appointed to the G20 high level independent panel on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. He is also a professor (part-time) at the Solvay Brussels School of Université Libre de Bruxelles, where he teaches economics of European integration.

    He joined Bruegel from the European Commission, where he worked on the macroeconomics of the euro area and the reform of euro area governance. Prior to joining the Commission, he was coordinating the research team on fiscal policy at Deutsche Bundesbank. He also worked as an external adviser to the International Monetary Fund.

    He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bonn and studied in Bonn, Toulouse, Pittsburgh and Passau. He taught economics at the University of Pittsburgh and at Université libre de Bruxelles. He has published numerous papers in leading academic journals. His columns and policy work are published and cited in leading international media and policy outlets. Guntram is fluent in German, English, French and has good notions of Bulgarian and Spanish.

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