Sitra’s statement on the implementation of the EU Adaptation Strategy

Finland and the EU have made a strong commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The EU and its Member States must consider the mitigation of – and adaptation to – climate change in all political decision-making.
Image: Annette Ekengren/Sitra

Writers

Tuuli Hietaniemi

Specialist, Carbon-neutral circular economy, Sitra

Mari Pantsar

Director, Carbon-neutral circular economy, Sitra
Hanna Mattila

Published

Statement issued on 28 February 2019

Key observations

Sitra is grateful for the opportunity to issue a statement on the topic at hand. In many respects, Sitra concurs with the Finnish government’s views regarding the implementation of the EU Adaptation Strategy and the need for a new strategy.

Finland and the EU have made a strong commitment to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. For the goals to be achieved, the EU and its Member States must consider the mitigation of – and adaptation to – climate change in all political decision-making.

By being one of the pioneers in this effort, Finland can secure the foundation for the welfare state for decades to come. At the same time, Finland can take on a more important role in promoting climate solutions. The key observations of Sitra’s statement are as follows:

  •  The EU’s climate change adaptation strategy should be updated without delay to ensure that the strategy corresponds to the current needs concerning adaptation.
  • The EU must ensure that its policy consistently supports the mitigation of climate change and adaptation to climate change in all sectors, including food production.
  • The new EU Adaptation Strategy must place much more emphasis on international spill-over effects.
  • The EU needs to support adaptation to climate change outside the Union’s borders by allocating sufficient international climate funding to adaptation.

Sitra’s statement

The climate crisis is progressing at a worrying rate. As mentioned in the Commission’s report, no European country is safe from the impacts of climate change. In 2018, the consequences of the exceptionally dry and hot conditions were widely evident in Finland and outside the country’s borders. There were many forest fires in Europe and their destructive power was considerable. The number of forest fire danger days is also expected to increase in Finland as the climate warms.[1]

The seriousness of the situation was underlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on global warming of 1.5°C, published in October 2018.[2] The report’s message was clear: limiting global warming to 1.5°C is still possible, but it requires immediate action. The changes that are necessary are of unprecedented magnitude.

Consistent policy supports the goals of the Paris Agreement

Sitra is in favour of updating the EU Adaptation Strategy to correspond to the current needs concerning adaptation. Sitra also supports the Finnish Government’s view that the strategy should spur the combination of mitigation and adaptation into coherent climate actions and responses. There will be a smaller need for adaptation if more emissions are reduced more quickly and carbon sequestration is increased.

Sitra encourages Finland to support consistent EU policy in line with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. The EU’s future adaptation policy must also be in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Sitra concurs with the Finnish Government’s view of the importance of policies in different sectors contributing to adaptation to climate change. Environmental and climate targets should be much more heavily emphasised in connection with the reform of the EU’s common agricultural policy, for example.

International spill-over effects need to be given more consideration

Higher average temperatures have an adverse effect on global food production.[3] Crop yields decline with increased temperatures, particularly in the case of wheat, maize and rice. The larger the increase in temperatures, the greater the decline in crop yields.[4] The number of undernourished people has increased for three consecutive years and now stands at an estimated 821 million. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the underlying factors include the acceleration of climate change and increase in extreme weather events.[5]

Sitra emphasises that the international spill-over effects of climate change, such as the deterioration of food security, should be better taken into consideration in the new Adaptation Strategy. The impacts of climate change are also indirectly reflected in the Finnish food market through the global flows of goods and energy. Finland imports food, fertilisers, animal feed and energy.[6]

Sitra underscores that there are many available solutions that support the agricultural sector’s ability to adapt to climate change. We can increase self-sufficiency in fertiliser use by recycling nutrients that are already in use and by cultivating nitrogen-binding crops, which reduces the need to acquire energy-intensive nitrogen fertilisers. Similarly, we can increase the energy-related self-sufficiency of agriculture through biogas, solar power, sustainable bioenergy and energy efficiency, for example. It is also important to note that variance in agricultural production is good for the soil and the field ecosystem as well as biodiversity, which is declining at an alarming rate. The aforementioned solutions can be scaled up for use at the EU level.

The EU can promote adaptation through international climate finance

Sitra finds it important that the EU supports adaptation to climate change outside the Union’s borders also. As the Commission’s report states, by helping others adapt to climate change, donor countries also help themselves. The international climate finance efforts by the EU and Finland are one concrete method of supporting adaptation to climate change outside the EU.

As part of the Paris Agreement, the EU and Finland have made a commitment to support developing countries through international climate finance. It is recommended that a balance be achieved between support for mitigation and adaptation. The EU and Finland are both lagging behind this target, with adaptation representing approximately 24 per cent of Finland’s international climate finance in 2017.[7] Increasing this share would support adaptation to climate change outside the EU.

Helsinki, 28 February 2019

Mari Pantsar, Director

[1] Tuomenvirta H. et al. (2018): Weather and Climate Risks in Finland – National Assessment Publications of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities 43/2018 Page 24.

[2] IPCC (2018): Global Warming of 1.5°C. Summary for Policymakers.

[3] Taken together, the findings of studies on the effects of changes in temperature, precipitation, CO2 concentration and extreme weather events indicate that a global warming of 2°C is projected to result in a greater reduction in global crop yields and global nutrition than global warming of 1.5°C (high confidence; Section 3.6). IPCC SR (2018).

[4] Hoegh-Guldberg, O. et al. (2018): Impacts of 1.5ºC Global Warming on Natural and Human Systems. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. Pages 236–237.

[5] FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO (2018): The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018. Building climate resilience for food security and nutrition. Rome, FAO. Page xii.

[6] Knuuttila, Marja and Eero Vatanen (2015): Elintarvikemarkkinoiden tuontiriippuvuus. Luonnonvara- ja biotalouden tutkimus 70/2015. Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke).

[7] EIONET (2018): MMR article 16 report – Finland 2017. MMR regulation descriptive note by Finland 2018. European Environment Agency.

Writers

Tuuli Hietaniemi

Specialist, Carbon-neutral circular economy, Sitra

Mari Pantsar

Director, Carbon-neutral circular economy, Sitra
Hanna Mattila

Published

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