Focus on… Benchmark study on climate adaptation change policies

Extreme climate events are already common in France and the effects of climate change will increase. The forthcoming energy and climate planning law and the third national climate change adaptation plan (PNACC) should spur the mobilisation of actors.

In view of this, IGEDD carried out a mission to benchmark climate change adaptation policies, surveying eight countries : six in Europe (Germany, Austria, Spain, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Switzerland), along with Canada and Japan.

  • Most of the countries surveyed by the mission, such as Japan, the UK, and Spain, have adopted legislative provisions to guide the development of adaptation plans, covering competent authorities, risk assessments, content of the plan, procedure for adoption and for regular updating, and evaluation.

    Some of these provisions also include sectoral guidelines on policies most affected by climate change, such as flood risks, urban planning, forestry, and drought, particularly in Spain.

    Germany, like France, is preparing a new national plan and a draft adaptation law. One of the key measures envisaged is the inclusion of a limited number (around thirty) of measurable adaptation goals in the adaptation strategy. Such an approach would stand out from the current plans of the various countries, that mainly include indicators and a great many (often over a hundred) targeted means – which is hardly surprising, given the diversity of the policies concerned.
    The following table summarises the nature of the legislative provisions currently applicable in three countries studied by the mission :

    Distribution of rolesRisk assessment Planning Sectorial guidelines
    UK (2008) Among the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the UK, and the 4 Nations Yes, by DEFRA (environment ministry) advised by the CCC Yes, a national plan and review cycle exist No
    Japan 2018 Among ministries, local authorities, businesses, and the general public Yes, by the environment ministry and recommended for other stakeholders Yes, content of the national plan, review cycle, and invitation to other actors to implement their plan No
    Spain (2021) Among public administrations Yes, incorporated into the national plan Yes, detailed description of the content of the national plan, sectoral plans for each ministry Yes, notably water, urban planning, health, biodiversity, agriculture, forest
  • Countries such as Germany, Japan, and the UK have set up a structured organisation at national level, comprising a structure for inter-ministerial coordination and clear identification of the responsibilities assigned to each ministerial department. In several countries, including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Spain, a structuring element of the plan is its articulation with the regional level, in the form of a “working community”, giving rise to genuine interaction on the methodological framework, evaluation, and modes of action. At local level, the juncture becomes more complex, given the large number of actors involved. Additionally, in order to mobilise local authorities, most of the countries studied have set up a fairly elaborate system of financial and technical support : a very extensive resource centre (particularly in Japan) ; guides and methodological documents sometimes created collaboratively by the central government and local authorities ; provision of climate services (data at municipal level and at end-of-century scale on climate change indicators such as heat peaks, forest fire risks, number of drought days, etc.) ; stimulation of networks ; provision of advisors (Austria) ; financing of vulnerability studies ; and the list goes on. The mission recommends adopting these best practices in France.
  • The mission observed that the benchmarking countries often adopted a climate change reference based on two of the greenhouse gas emissions scenarios defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) : a “middle of the road” scenario and one that is more pessimistic, yet is at risk of occurring. The pessimistic scenario should particularly be taken into account in risk assessments for long-term investments.
    Climate scenarios for risk assessments
    Canada, GermanyAustria, SpainSwitzerland, Japan UKFrance PNACC-2
    only one scenario, called “8.5” *

    Germany : the risk assessment divides this scenario into an optimistic and a pessimistic case
    2 scenarios : RCP 4.5 and 8.5
    Austria : the assessment specifies the temperature rise corresponding to these scenarios in Austria.
    2 scenarios : RCP 2.6 and 8.5
    Switzerland :
    special attention to scenario 8.5, in the name of the precautionary principle
    2 scenarios : + 2°C et and 4°C
    corresponding to the scenarios 2.6 and 6.0
    Adaptation to +2°C and consideration of +4°C
    one single scenario : +2°C
    at horizon 2050

    *as defined by the IPCC

    The “4.5” scenario leads to end-of-century warming of 2.7°C, close to that projected to occur consequent to countries fulfilling the commitments made under the Paris Agreement. Scenario “8.5” corresponds to a warming of 4.4°C.
    As demonstrated in the latest IPCC report, many climate changes intensify as warming gathers pace. In particular, the IPCC mentions increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme temperatures, heavy rainfall and, in some areas, agricultural and ecological droughts. The image below illustrates this relationship between temperature and climatic events :

    source : Meteo-France diagram, according to IPCC

    For this reason, the mission recommends defining a climate change reference, expressed in the form of temperature rises and corresponding to two greenhouse gas emissions scenarios defined by the IPCC : one “middle of the road” and the other more pessimistic, in the same vein as the climate references adopted by most of the benchmarking countries. This reference should be taken into account by local authorities and companies in assessing the consequences of climate change in their field, as well as in determining what actions need to be taken to adapt to it.

  • To varying degrees, most of the countries surveyed have engaged in approaches to address climate change impacts in technical standardisation and reference systems, such as standards for construction, transport infrastructure, or production facilities, that must be able to withstand rising temperatures and other consequences of climate change. These approaches should justify more determined action by standardisation bodies at all levels : national (AFNOR for France), European (CEN, CENELEC), and global (ISO). Following the examples of Canada and Germany, the mission recommended ensuring that climate change impacts are considered in the processes of developing and revising technical standards and benchmarks.
  • It is in the water sector that the consequences of climate change are often felt first and foremost : repeated droughts that lead to restrictions and conflicts of use, reduced river flow with impacts on species and habitats, rising sea levels, saline water infiltrations, exceptional rainfall and flooding, etc. Consequently, the “water” chapter tends to be one of the most highly developed in the adaptation plans. The first adaptation lever cited in these plans is to speed up policies for saving water and sharing it between uses. The countries studied show a similar approach as that adopted in France, in other words : the need to set quantified and shared goals for water saving ; integrated management by watershed that takes the needs of the concerned environments into account ; declared intention to priorise uses. In the agricultural sector, short-term solutions may be based on the development of storage capacities, while medium- and long-term solutions project a transformation of production models.

    On the subject of flood prevention, the definition of reference hazards must include the impacts of climate change. This is beginning to happen with regard to rising sea levels and must be further developed with regard to the impacts of changes in precipitation patterns on flooding. The plans studied generally include investments in the development and reliability of monitoring and warning systems for extreme events, as these are effective, “no regrets” measures.
    With regard to anticipating the consequences of rising sea levels, the mission identified the UK’s “Thames Estuary 2100” programme and the Netherlands’ Delta Programme as particularly good examples of constructed adaptation policies, involving Parliament or civil society in the most structuring decisions.

  • The map shows three zoning areas :
    • area where the increased risk of flooding due to climate change is accepted,
    • area where the level of risk is maintained
    • area where the level of risk will be reduced

    source : UK Environment Agency (EA)

  • Conclusion

    On the very day of the publication of the IGEDD report at the end of February, Christophe BÉCHU, Minister of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, set up the Ministerial Steering Committee on Adaptation to Climate Change. The Committee is tasked with working on climate reference scenarios that will serve as the basis for a new adaptation strategy.

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