Adaptation to climate change

Greece is preparing to effectively confront
future climate conditions and challenges

In the four and a half billion years of our planet's history, the parameters that characterize the climate of the earth have undergone considerable fluctuations. For the time being, we can say that the rise of the mean atmospheric temperature of the planet (in the 20th century) was 0.75 οC per 100 years (IPCC, 2011). A significant part of this warming, has been attributed to changes in the atmospheric composition due to human activity, and has prevailed to be called "anthropogenic component of climate change" or simply "anthropogenic climate change". This latter period was aptly characterized by Professor Paul Crutzen as "Anthropocene period". It is noteworthy that according to the World Meteorological Organization, the 2010-2019 decade was the warmest of the last 500 years. The estimations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2012; 2015) show that the upward trend of the atmospheric temperature will continue to increase in most parts of the world during the 21st century. More specifically, based on the mean value of a set of climate simulations, the average air temperature is expected to rise, depending on the evolution of greenhouse gas concentrations, by 1.1-6.4 °C in the current century. The rise in temperature is expected to be more significant in higher latitudes and more intense in continental areas than in the oceans (IPCC, 2012-2015). Climate change will affect the planet as it will result in a reduction in the sea and land areas that are covered by ice, as well as an increase in the average sea level. Indeed, the observed and expected rise in the atmospheric temperature is accompanied in many regions by an upward trend in incidences of extreme weather events, as reflected in the IPCC report, which is devoted to extreme meteorological phenomena (IPCC, 2013), while in Greece and neighbouring countries it will be accompanied by an in increase in heatwaves, a decrease in rainfall, and an increase in droughts and forest fires risk.

Climate change has already begun and is expected to continue. Even if global efforts to reduce emissions prove to be effective, the rise of global temperature will exceed 1.5 °C. Extreme weather phenomena and the risks of climate events, such as floods and droughts, are expected to increase and intensify in many areas, with adverse effects on the environment and ecosystems, the economy and society, human health and well-being. As a result, a country has to include future climate change on possible outcomes and mitigate its impact. Policies that moderate the impacts of climate change are referred to as adaptation policies and consist of taking appropriate actions to address the expected damage and adverse impacts of climate change. Adaptation policies should target those sectors of activity  that are most vulnerable to climate change (for Greece among others the water resources management, the management of forest ecosystems, agricultural, livestock and aquaculture sectors, health, land and coastal infrastructures, the energy sector, the building environment and the tourism sector) and should develop in a time period prior to the occurrence of the effects of climate change as well as develop gradually over time rather than in a short period of time. The effectiveness of adaptation measures / policies is maximized when planning is based on analytical studies and where the options are decided in close cooperation with the stakeholders.

The EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change, was adopted by the European Commission in April 2013 (COM (2013) 216). The EU Strategy aims to promote action by Member States, foster better informed decision-making and climate-proof relevant sectors. The implementation of the Strategy is based on eight specific actions:

  • Promoting action by Member States:
    • encourage all Member States to adopt comprehensive adaptation strategies;
    • provide LIFE funding to support capacity building and step up adaptation action in Europe (2014-2020);
    • introduce adaptation in the Covenant of Mayors framework (2013-2014).
  •  Promoting better informed decision-making
    • bridge the knowledge gap;
    • further develop Climate-ADAPT as the «one-stop shop» for adaptation information in Europe.
  • Climate-proofing EU action: promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sector:
    • facilitate the climate-proofing of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Cohesion Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP);
    • ensuring more resilient infrastructure;
    • promote insurance and other financial products for resilient investment and business decisions.

In 2016, the Commission launched an evaluation of the Strategy to examine its actual implementation and performance. The evaluation was completed in 2018. The results of evaluation can be found here.

 

International Agreements

On 12 December 2015, at the last day of the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), the 195 countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) reached a landmark global legal binding agreement to combat climate change, the so-called Paris Agreement.

The Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016. As of June 2019, 185 countries have ratified it. Greece ratified the agreement by Law ν.4426/2016 (Α’ 187).

The Agreement set three main objectives:

  • holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, recognising that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change;
  • Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emission development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; and
  •  making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

Paris Agreement (article 7.1) establishes the global goal on adaptation of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response in the context of the Agreement’s temperature goal.

To meet the adaptation goal (article 7.9), Paris Agreement promotes planning and implementation of adaptation actions. In particular, it promotes the assessment of climate change impacts and vulnerability, the formulation and implementation of adaptation actions, the monitoring and evaluation of adaptation policies and plans, and the building of socioeconomic and ecological systems’ resilience.

Paris Agreement (article 7.5) sets out the principles for adaptation actions. More specifically, it acknowledges that adaptation actions should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems.

Furthermore, Paris Agreement (article 7.7) fosters cooperation on enhancing action on adaptation. In particular, encourages sharing information, experiences and good practices; strengthening institutional arrangements, to support the synthesis of relevant information and knowledge; strengthening scientific knowledge on climate, in a manner that informs climate services and supports decision-making; and assisting developing country Parties in identifying adaptation needs and priorities, as well as effective adaptation practices.

The overall progress towards achieving the goals of the Agreement will be assessed in 2023, in the context of the "global stocktake” referred to in article 14. With regard to adaptation (article 7.14), the global stocktake shall recognise the adaptation efforts of developing country Parties, enhance the implementation of adaptation actions, review the adequacy and effectiveness of adaptation and support provided for adaptation, as well as review the overall progress made in achieving the global goal on adaptation.

The Paris rulebook, in other words the methods and procedures to implement the Paris Agreement, was discussed in COP22 in Marrakech (November 2016) and in COP23 in Bonne (November 2017) and was settled on most of its elements in COP24 in Katowice in Poland (December 2018).

In COP25 in Spain (December 2019) the still unsettled elements of the Agreement will be discussed.

 

Article 43 of Law 4414/2016 (GG Α΄149/2016) requires the 13 Regional Authorities of Greece to develop and implement Regional Adaptation Action Plans (RAAPs) and sets the minimum technical specifications for RAAPs content. The RAAPs content has been further elaborated by Ministerial Decision (MD) 11258/2017 (GG, issue B, 873/2017), which provides the detailed specifications for the content of the RAAPs.

The MD requires Regional Authorities to perform multi-sectoral climate impact and vulnerability assessments. The climate risks and impacts identified by sector and geographical area will drive decision making and adaptation action planning at regional level.

Each RAAP will examine the potential measures/actions included in the NAS based on the particular regional circumstances, priorities and needs and will develop regional action plans. Wherever there is a case for sector or sub-regional analysis, specific actions per sector or sub-regional area will be indicated.

The adaptation actions per sector or geographical area will be prioritised based on cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analyses. The effectiveness of actions corresponds to their climate change prevention, mitigation and restoration capacity (in order of priority). The wider economic, environmental and social benefits arising from their implementation are considered in order to focus on ‘win-win’ and ‘no-regret’ actions. Stakeholders will also be involved in the selection of adaptation actions through public consultation processes.

The development of the 13 RAAPs is ongoing with several RAAP studies already finalised. However, up to date, no RAAP has been endorsed. It is expected that the majority of the RAAPs will have been endorsed by the respective Regional Councils by the end of 2019.

The RAAPs will be subject to evaluation and revision at least once every seven years, respectively.

Pursuant to article 43 of Law 4414/2016 (GG Α΄149/2016), the RAAPs are reviewed at least once every seven years and revised if appropriate or necessary. In short, the RAAPs’ review may start in 2026. In addition, the article 44 of Law 4414/2016 (GG Α΄149/2016) requires the National Climate Change Adaptation Committee (NCCAC) to be consulted for RAAPs’ revision.

On 22 December 2019, the Ministry of Environment and Energy (former Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change), the Academy of Athens (Biomedical Research Foundation) and the Bank of Greece signed a memorandum of cooperation with the aim to a) address the impact of climate change at country level through specific adaptation actions and b) add on the experience of Bank of Greece and its Climate Change Impacts Study Committee (CCISC) on economic and other impacts of climate change. The cooperation concerned, inter alia, drafting the National Adaptation Strategy.

The CCISC prepared a first draft of the National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) with the support of the Bank of Greece and the contribution of the Directorate of Climate Change & Air Quality of the Ministry of Environment & Energy. The draft NAS was subject to a public consultation. The outputs of the consultation was assessed by an informal ad-hoc working group comprises members of the CCISC, officers of the Bank of Greece and of the Directorate of Climate Change & Air Quality. The Directorate of Climate Change & Air Quality further elaborated and finalised the NAS. The final National Adaptation Strategy was endorsed with article 45 of Law 4414/2016 (GG Α΄149/2016).

The overarching objective of Greece’s adaptation strategy is to strengthen the country's resilience to the impacts of climate change, and to create conditions for well-informed and farsighted decisions that address risks and opportunities resulting from a changing climate. The NAS provides an initial five-year horizon for building the capacity for adaptation and prioritising and implementing an initial set of actions. Due to the significant uncertainty surrounding climate change and its impacts, as well as in the light of the latest information and developments, the views on the best way to promote adaptation need to be constantly put in new context, which calls for continuous evaluation, training and specialised analysis. Against this background, the first draft of the NAS provides an opportunity for developing a strategic approach to adaptation to climate change, which sets in motion an ongoing process of revision, updating and realignment.

Key objectives of the NAS are to:

  1. establish and enhance the (short-term and long-term) decision-making procedure regarding adaptation issues;
  2. link adaptation with the promotion of a sustainable growth model through the implementation of regional/local action plans;
  3. promote adaptation actions and policies in all sectors of the Greek economy, with emphasis on the most vulnerable ones;
  4. create a monitoring, evaluation and update mechanism for adaptation actions and policies; and
  5. build adaptation capacity and raise public awareness.

The NAS is the first step in a continuous and flexible process for planning and implementing the necessary adjustment measures at national, regional and local levels. The NAS sets the general objectives, guidelines and means of implementation of a modern, effective and developing adaptation strategy in line with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the European Adaptation Strategy, the European Directives and international experience. It aims to lever the capabilities of Greece’s public authorities, economy and society at large, in an aim to address the impacts of climate change in coming years.

The NAS suggests potential adaptation actions for all environmental and socio-economic sectors that are likely to be significantly affected by climate change in Greece: i.e. natural ecosystems and biodiversity; agriculture and food security; forestry; fisheries and aquaculture; water resources; coastal zones; tourism; human health; energy and industry; transport; the built environment; cultural heritage; insurance industry.  These priority sectors have been identified through the climate impact and vulnerability assessment conducted by the CCISC in 2011.

The NAS outlines Greece’s strategic orientation aimed at providing guidelines. As such, it does not judge the feasibility of individual adaptation measures and actions at the local/regional level or attempt to rank the suggested measures and actions.

The final selection, the prioritisation and scheduling of the appropriate actions and measures are the content and essence of the thirteen (13) Regional Adaptation Plans which will be composed based on the particularities of each Region.

Pursuant to article 42 of Law 4414/2016 (GG Α΄149/2016), the NAS is reviewed at least once every ten years and revised if appropriate or necessary. In short, the NAS should be reviewed by 2026.

Pursuant to article 44 of Law 4414/2016 (GG Α΄149/2016), the National Climate Change Adaptation Committee (NCCAC) is the formal coordination and advisory body at national level for adaptation policy monitoring, evaluation, formulation and implementation and needs to  be consulted for NAS revision.

Local initiatives

The EU Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy brings together thousands of local governments voluntarily committed to implementing EU climate and energy objectives.

The Covenant of Mayors initiative was launched by the European Commission in 2008, with the objective of engaging and supporting mayors to commit to reaching the 2020 EU targets for GHGs and energy, by introducing a first-of-its-kind bottom-up approach. The success of the initiative quickly went beyond expectations and would keep attracting new local and regional authorities in Europe and beyond. The 2020 Covenant of Mayors has gathered 180 Greek cities (municipalities).

In 2014, the European Commission launched the Mayors Adapt initiative. Based on the same principles as the Covenant of Mayors, this sister initiative was focusing on adaptation to climate change. Mayors Adapt invited local governments to demonstrate leadership in adaptation, and was supporting them in the development and implementation of local adaptation strategies. The Mayors Adapt initiative has gathered 61 Greek cities (municipalities).

The Covenant of Mayors and Mayors Adapt initiatives officially merged on the occasion of a ceremony held on 15 October 2015 in the European Parliament. The new Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy - the goals and direction of which were defined with cities through a consultation process - is both more ambitious and broad-ranging: signatory cities now pledge to actively support the implementation of the EU 40% GHG-reduction target by 2030 and agree to adopt an integrated approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation and to ensure access to secure, sustainable and affordable energy for all.

In order to translate their political commitment into practical measures and projects, Covenant signatories commit to submitting, within two years following the date of the local council decision, a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) outlining the key actions they plan to undertake. The plan will feature a Baseline Emission Inventory to track mitigation actions and a Climate Risks and Vulnerability Assessment. The adaptation strategy can either be part of the SECAP or developed and mainstreamed in a separate planning document.

In June 2016, the Covenant of Mayors entered a major new phase of its history when choosing to join forces with another city initiative, the Compact of Mayors. The resulting “Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy” is the largest movement of local governments committed to going beyond their own national climate and energy objectives. Fully in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals and climate justice principles, the Global Covenant of Mayors will tackle three key issues: climate change mitigation, adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change and universal access to secure, clean and affordable energy.

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The Ministry of Environment & Energy

General Directorate for Environmental Policy
Climate Change & Air Quality Directorate

Climate Change Department

Address: 147 Patission Str., 112 51, Athens, Greece

Tel.: 210.8642.118, 210.8646.939
Fax: 210.8646.939
adapt@prv.ypeka.gr