Countries across Europe are beginning to look at adapting to climate change in the face of recent extreme weather conditions, a study has found.
Weather extremes, set to become more frequent and intense as global temperatures rise, were the most cited reason for taking action to cope with climate change, with 28 out of the 30 countries questioned for the European Environment Agency (EEA) report saying it was one of the top factors.
EU policies integrating climate change adaptation was the second most cited reason, with 19 countries saying this was a major factor, while 17 said estimates of current and future damage costs had prompted the development of national policies.
Less than half – only 14 of the countries – said 'pertinent results' from scientific research had spurred action, while only two said they were driven by media coverage and none cited private sector lobbying or public pressure as one of their three main drivers.
Hans Bruyninckx, EEA executive director, said: "This is the first time European countries' adaptation efforts have been analysed comprehensively.
"Attention is often on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and for good reason. But adaptation is inevitable, so it is positive that there is now political focus on this issue across Europe. Many countries now need to turn plans into action."
While 21 of the countries already have national adaptation strategies concrete action is still only at an early stage in many – only 13 countries reported having started implementing policies, according to the survey, and providing information was the most commonly-mentioned policy instrument.
More than three-quarters of countries cited a lack of resources such as time, money or technologies as a barrier to taking action, with 'uncertainties about the extent of future climate change' and 'unclear responsibilities' both seen as obstacles by many.
Despite these difficulties, half the countries reported a high or very high willingness to develop policies and to adapt at the national level, which the report suggested may be linked to increased awareness of climate change over the last five years reported in two-thirds of the countries covered.
The UK is seen as a frontrunner on adapting to climate change, according to the report, where the Thames Barrier has plans in place with different options for upgrading, retrofitting and monitoring to cope with changes in the coming decades.