Newsletter No 3 september 2009

Climate change adaptation in Central & Eastern Europe

epa_Eastern EuropeAs European governments continue to advance their efforts towards mitigating the causes of climate change through emission abatement, there is a clearer understanding that these efforts will not be enough to avoid the expected impacts of a changing climate. Drought, water scarcity and flooding are already a reality for many countries and regions; concerns of sea level rise are mounting; and heat waves are occurring with greater frequency. In light of this it is increasingly being recognized that adaptive measures must be taken. A recent IVM report looks at the “state of play” of adaptation in the new EU Member States of Central and Eastern Europe (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania Poland Slovakia and Slovenia) exploring what can be seen as three key dimensions of adaptation:

  • The institutional setup of adaptation. Which actors and institutions are involved in adaptation planning and execution and what are the priorities of adaptation?

  • The policy arena of adaptation. What policies are in place and what policies are planned?

  • The procedure of adaptation. What are the constraints and enablers to implementing adaptation?

Based upon a series of interviews with country experts, the report finds that many of the new Member States are in the initial stages of incorporating adaptation into their national climate change programs. The concept and implementation of adaptation is relatively new. This is evidenced by a number of interrelated factors. Adaptation at present is self described as being a low priority or a priority but in initial phase for most of the central governments. Adaptation is often not given a clear distinction between climate change mitigation efforts and activities. While some countries are working towards a national adaptation strategy, only one country (Hungary) has created one. Moreover not every country is committed to pursuing a strategy.   

Institutionally, adaptation policy is largely the domain of the Ministries of Environment with input from Ministries of Agriculture. With the exception of Latvia, there are no established inter-ministerial working groups and cooperation across key ministries is largely absent. While there appears to be cooperation between different levels of government (national and regional/local) on issues of disaster risk reduction and risk management, this often falls outside the setting of long-term adaptation to climate change related risks and impacts.  Also, according to national level policymakers, lower levels of government do not appear to be cognizant of climate change adaptation,

Adaptation’s novelty is also reflected in the small number of policy actions (as compared to various EU-15 MSs and the narrow diversity of domains/sectors they cover. This in part is related to the factors listed above and also connected to what and how climate change impact knowledge is generated and communicated. The majority of climate research falls under the domains/sectors of agriculture, water management and land management. Moreover, much of the research in these domains (predominantly agriculture) appears to be driven by intellectual and institutional lock-in. Because of the nascent institutional structure supporting adaptation, combined with cultural preferences, research and/or studies in other domains appears to be shortcoming. An added point is the relation between science and policy. Many of the countries acknowledge the difficulty in translating research results and existing knowledge into policy actions.

In spite of adaptation’s novelty, the countries are aware of that there is more work to be done and are optimistic that the existing constraints to effecting adaptation will be addressed in the future. In particular they have been looking towards the European Union for guidance and support. The EU is seen as having significant influence, on the issue of adaptation.In all of the interviews it was stated that the country was very much looking forward to the release of the European Commission’s White Paper on adaptation so as to offer guidance on actions and/or provide political impetus to the central government to address the adaptation. Now that the White Paper has been released we may see adaptation maturing into a distinct policy domain with robust institutions and procedures to support it.


The final report can be viewed here:

For more information: Eric Masseyempty