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A solutions-focused approach to adapting Europe to the climate crisis


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Green Deal Support Office

A solutions-focused approach to adapting Europe to the climate crisis

In a recently published report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed the urgent need to substantially accelerate our efforts to adapt to climate change. This issue has also been recognised by the EU and steps are being taken to address it through the development of the Mission on Adaptation to Climate Change, an element of the 2021 EU Climate Adaptation Strategy. The Mission contributes to a much-needed area of policymaking that in Europe has previously received less attention than climate change mitigation, but where the EU is now prepared to take bold steps.

Over the next two articles, we will be focusing on some of the key themes from our webinar on the Mission on Adaptation to Climate Change and show you some of the innovative adaptation projects that are underway. First up, we give you an introduction to the Mission, including its aims, objectives and its focus on local solutions, innovation and coordination.


In an increasingly warming world, the consequences of climate change are inescapable and mean that adaptation is now necessary. From devastating droughts to deadly heatwaves, decimated forests and eroded coastlines caused by rising sea levels, climate change is here and we have to adapt.

Addressing the climate crisis is a priority in the EU, and this is reflected in the current policy context, tackling not only mitigation but also the previously overlooked aspect of adaptation - a twin-track approach to climate change. On the one hand, the European Green Deal strives to make the EU climate neutral and resilient by 2050, whilst on the other the EU Adaptation Strategy sets out the vision for a smarter, faster and more systemic approach to adapting to the unavoidable impacts of the climate crisis.

What is The Mission for Adaptation to Climate Change?

The Mission for Adaptation to Climate Change’s overarching goal is to support at least 150 European regions and local authorities towards climate resilience by 2030.

The Mission aims to work with a subset of European Regions and Local Authorities to reach climate resilience 20 years before the goal set out in the adaptation strategy.

The Mission has three main objectives set out as a pyramid in Figure 1. Starting from the base these are:

  • Preparing Europe for climate disruptions - to get a better understanding of the risks that Europeans are going to face at various levels (citizens, regions, local authorities and communities) as well as the solutions available
  • Accelerating the transition to a resilient future – by directly supporting at least 150 local authorities and regions. Being solutions-focused, this involves designing a pathway towards climate resilience; setting the road for implementation and testing on-the-ground solutions that are currently under pilot testing or are close to commercial readiness.
  • Building resilience – this stage paves the way for implementation and mainstreaming of adaptation solutions. It involves building 75 deep demonstrations where it is possible to upscale those solutions that are already working.

Figure 1 Objectives of the Mission for adaptation to climate change (click to enlarge image)

Figure 1 Objectives of the Mission for adaptation to climate change (click to enlarge image)

A focus on local solutions

As climate change affects different places in different ways, there is an emphasis on working with local communities in the Mission, which reflects the reality that adaptation needs to be place-based, tailored to local contexts and inclusive. There is a variety of impacts including:

  • The heat island effect seen in cities, such as Barcelona, which causes local temperature rise, a decrease in rainfall and more frequent extreme events such as droughts and heatwaves.
  • Floods caused by frequent major rainfall events in low-lying areas, which are expected to become more intense and frequent as a result of further climate change.
  • Storm surges threatening coastal locations such as parts of Timmendorfer Strand, located on the Baltic Sea, in which the natural beach ridge is no longer a sufficient flood defence

Due to the variety of the locations negatively affected, itis necessary to come up with a multitude of solutions, and here, innovation is key. So how is this being tackled?

Enabling innovation in the Mission

The Mission focuses on 10 key innovation areas (figure 2):

  • 6 key community systems in the middle of the diagram: critical infrastructure, health and well-being, land use and food system, and water management. These are all linked to ecosystem and nature-based solutions, together with the local economic system which also underpins the remaining conditions below.
  • enabling conditions on the edges of the chart: (1) knowledge and data to reveal what is happening and the how the solutions help, (2) governance and political structure, as well as engagement from citizens and stakeholders, (3) finance and resources/local economic systems and (4) behavioural change.
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Key innovation areas covered by the Mission on adaptation to climate change

The Mission is supported by a series of dedicated Horizon Europe calls to enable its objectives. Each call targets one specific objective from the pyramid or one key innovation area. And as not all regions are on the same level in terms of climate readiness, all three levels of the Mission’s objectives are being targeted. Since 2021, the calls have become more focused towards the testing of solutions on the ground, and the demonstration of adaptation solutions.

Coordination, support and communication

The Commission will launch a Mission Implementation Platform this year, which will provide services to the Mission projects and regional/local authorities. It will ensure the internal coordination of all Mission activities, provide the technical support to regions to implement their adaptation actions and communicate about the mission.

As we see above, much is now being done to address climate change adaptation and weare sure to see some interesting developments from the Mission for Adaptation to Climate Change as it prepares Europe for the unavoidable climate disruptions and to help build a resilient future.

But what do some of these ground-breaking solutions look like? In the next article we will take a look at the four pioneering research and innovation projects on climate adaptation that are setting the pace for future projects under the Horizon Mission 2020 calls.



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Objectives of the Mission for adaptation to climate change