Towards a climate-resilient built environment: a discussion paper on opportunities and priorities for climate adaptation in the EU

A holistic approach to climate-resilience is needed to reduce the risk of maladaptation, ensure Just Resilience and exploit synergies of adaptation and mitigation efforts at all levels of governance. Just Resilience involves addressing the unequal distribution of climate impacts and ensuring that adaptation efforts are inclusive, leaving no vulnerable populations behind.

Amidst escalating climate impacts and societal challenges, climate adaptation policies in the built environment need to gain prominence if the EU is to advance towards a more resilient society. Current policy responses to the climate crisis focus on mitigation. While this is an essential aim, it nevertheless fails to address the vulnerabilities of buildings and infrastructure and the ecological systems they are embedded in, as well as the communities they serve. A climate-resilient built environment should withstand diverse climate impacts, be highly energy-efficient and based on decentralised renewables, and foster adaptability, justice and inclusivity to enhance community well-being.

As the topic of a climate-resilient built environment is not specifically encompassed by any single EU policy file, this discussion papers argues that consistency between adaptation and buildings policy documents could be increased through a European Commission-led EU Strategy for a Climate-Resilient Built Environment.

A patchwork of non-binding EU initiatives demonstrate awareness of the relevance of climate adaptation for a climate-resilient built environment. However, they only cover parts of the EU, in particular pioneer regions and cities, which means other areas could potentially be left behind. A comprehensive EU Strategy for a Climate-Resilient Built Environment would enable all cities and regions in the EU to benefit from capacity-building and accelerated action to reduce climate risk. Incorporating local voices from across the EU is crucial in drafting this strategy.

As yet, there is no comprehensive monitoring framework at EU level to ensure that actions taken will adequately address climate risks and achieve a climate-resilient built environment. Based on the European Environment Agency’s indicators for Just Resilience, the European Commission should take the lead, and set out a Just Resilience monitoring framework for Member States.

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