EU Environmental Legislation

EU Environmental Legislation

Legal Perspectives on Regulatory Strategies

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Edited by Marjan Peeters and Rosa Uylenburg

This thought-provoking book offers a cross-cutting debate on EU environmental legislation from a legal perspective focussing on key themes such as regulatory instrument choice, the coherency of law, and enforceable commitments.

Chapter 9: In search of a European legislative approach to adaptation to climate change

Andrea Keessen

Subjects: environment, environmental law, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, environmental law, european law


The European Union has started to plan for adaptation to climate change. It is acting on the IPCC Assessments reports warning that climate change is already happening. Warming is evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global sea levels. And while there is no conclusive evidence, extreme events like the 2003 heatwave in Europe and hurricane Sandy in New York City in 2012 appear to be linked to climate change. As science now stands, the increase of the global average temperature is concluded to be very likely caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. In view of the potential impacts of climate change, it is obvious that mitigation is essential. However, it is controversial how aggressive mitigation efforts should beand who should bear them. Hence not enough resources might be invested in abating greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, even if humanity were able to halt emissions and stabilise the current greenhouse gas concentrations in the near future, warming and sea level rise would continue for centuries, due to the timescales and feedbacks. Therefore, mitigation should be complemented by adaptation. Both the Commission and the Council endorsed the idea that climate change policies need to have two legs: mitigation and adaptation. The EU already has a mitigation policy and has attempted to lead in setting mitigation targets. By contrast, the EU has been slow in developing an adaptation strategy. This difference might be an issue of scale.

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