Climate change "to hit Europe's south hardest"

EU must adapt wide range of policies to prevent worsening of social inequalities, say researchers

The EU must urgently update a wide range of policies to help member states adapt to climate change, says a new report funded by the European Commission's research directorate.

Published yesterday, the study provides a first comprehensive assessment of likely climate change impacts on Europe. Its main conclusion is that southern countries - including accession states - will suffer more than northern ones, and rural areas more than towns. Natural ecosystems, soil quality, water availability, the insurance industry, agriculture in southern Europe, human health and transport are most likely to be affected, the study concludes.

Launching the report, lead author Martin Parry of the University of East Anglia, said that forecasts suggested that by 2050 Greece's summer tourist industry could be all but destroyed by high temperatures. Areas of Spain that are currently among the EU's largest suppliers of fruit and vegetables could become virtual desert.

In northern Europe, the main negative impacts are predicted to be increased flooding and wetter winters. Northern states might also reap economic benefits from warmer temperatures through increased agricultural and forest productivity and lower energy demand, the report concludes.

Professor Parry said this "very unequal pattern of effects in Europe" could exacerbate existing north-south economic and social inequality. He urged EU decision makers to rethink policies in response. "Many directives are built on current natural resources but they need to be adapted to climate change," he said.

The study's authors stress that efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions should be maintained. "We need two equal strings to our bow - mitigation and adaptation," said Professor Parry. "But more attention needs to be paid to adaptation. Europe has the technical capacity to adapt, the issue is decision making."

Policy areas identified as needing urgent revision to improve Europe's response to climate change include the common agricultural and fisheries policies, nature protection and biodiversity and the water framework directive.

The research directorate report also forms the basis of the European section of the Intergovernmental panel on climate change's next set of climate change forecasts, details of which emerged last week (ENDS Daily 27 October).

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; a summary of the report will be posted next week here.

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