Climate change: Europe needs local and regional strategies
Source: Article by Neil Swannick, in the Guardian Professional (15 October 2013)
The European commission launched in April a strategy about adaptation to climate change, which was reviewed by the committee of the regions last week in Brussels. This European Union consultative body comprises 353 elected local and regional authority representatives from the 28 member states. Local and regional authorities are well aware that they are in the front line as first responders to extreme weather events in their communities, such as the deadly floods in central Europe when the Elbe and Danube burst their banks.
Local government, as well as having to cope with the “new norm” of more frequent extreme weather events and the slow-onset effects of climate change such as increase in temperatures and rising sea level, will need to put in place the adaptation work necessary to avoid their regions becoming unattractive to investors or uninsurable because of climate risk.
Many areas of local government responsibility such as spatial planning, buildings, waste and transport, will need to be changed and emergency planning and adaptation brought together.
But while local and regional authorities will have to be key players in developing climate resilience, the EU adaptation strategy focuses its attention on national adaptation strategies, which few member states appear to be addressing as a priority.
The Committee of the Regions argues that a multi-level governance approach, which recognises a role for member state governments and local and regional authorities, will be necessary to make our world ready for the changing climate environment. It points out that encouraging societies and economies to become more resilient to climate change, while at the same time lessening their contribution to the problem through reducing greenhouse gas emissions, is a crucial aspect of strengthening Europe’s competitiveness and quality of life over the coming decades.
Our concern shouldn’t stop at national or European boundaries. Jeremy Carter, of Manchester university, a contributor to several studies on climate change adaptation and a recent expert speaker at the Committee of the Regions meeting in Vilnius, said: “While many impacts will result from the local effects of extreme weather and climate change, from the flooding of schools to the harmful effects of heat stress on vulnerable individuals, there will be global impacts of climate change, such as logistics and food supply, that will be equally significant.”
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