22 Dec 2023, 08:48
Carolina Kyllmann

Preview 2024: Climate adaptation must shift from strategy to action, social justice key – think tank

Photo: European Communities.

Germany made dealing with the consequences of climate change more binding in 2023, and it must now use this momentum to step up implementation, says Christian Kind, adaptation head of programme at think tank adelphi. Spreading the costs in a socially just way should be a priority, Kind told Clean Energy Wire. Policymakers throughout Europe need to ensure that standards determining how homes or cities are built or maintained account for a changing climate and minimise the impacts of wildfires, droughts and heatwaves.

This interview is part of a series to preview the German and European energy and climate policy in 2024. Further interviews will be published in the coming weeks. 


Clean Energy Wire: The German Constitutional Court’s debt brake ruling threatens many of the carefully crafted compromises the government achieved in climate and energy policy over the past year. Which of these compromises do you think must be preserved most urgently, and how?

Christian Kind: The implications of the judgement on the debt brake continue to unfold step by step. For the acceptance of the energy transition and cohesion in Germany, it will be important to distribute the partially increased financial burdens as fairly as possible. With this in mind, the introduction of a so-called climate bonus (“Klimageld” in German), initially agreed as part of the government's coalition pact, would be extremely important. This would return some revenue from Germany's carbon price to the country's population to compensate them for its rising cost. Austria has shown how such a "climate bonus" can be paid out to citizens with little bureaucratic effort.

The political year 2024 in Europe is dominated by the EU elections in spring. Which climate and energy topics do you think should be made a priority before the election – and which ones will await the newly elected Parliament and Commission further down the road? 

In 2022, the European Commission launched the Mission on Adaptation to Climate Change – an ambitious umbrella initiative to support climate resilience in European regions. This was an important step that has the potential to create synergies between the work of different Directorates-General [equivalent of national-level ministries in the European Commission]. To realise these synergies, however, more coordination is needed between the multitudes of European research projects. Furthermore, we need a shift away from analysing risks and creating strategies towards improving infrastructure as well as health and safety systems. This is especially important when it comes to the issues of wildfires, droughts and heatwaves, and their implications for health and infrastructure. Mainstreaming climatic changes into European standards that govern much of how our infrastructure is built and maintained is an urgent step to take here.

But in 2024, the impacts of climate change will also move more onto the radar of European businesses: With the EU Taxonomy and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), many larger businesses are now facing at least two reporting standards that will require them to analyse how the impacts of climate change are affecting their bottom line. Meeting these requirements will pose challenges for companies as well as for auditors who sign off on the reports. In the short term, it will be essential to monitor the quality of the reporting to ensure that it is meaningful and sound. In the medium term, the reporting requirements and approaches to analysing physical climate risk need to be harmonised. Furthermore, the efforts demanded for such analyses need to be proportional to the relevance of physical climate risks in each sector or region.

Which other topics and events in Germany and beyond do you think will – or should – shape the debate next year in the field of climate adaptation, and why?

The Climate Adaptation Act recently passed by Germany's council of state governments (Bundesrat) will place a greater focus than before on dealing with the consequences of climate change in Germany in 2024. The law requires the federal, state and local authorities to address climate risks and develop appropriate strategies. But the same applies here: there is already a great deal of knowledge about the impacts, and many concepts and strategies at all levels already exist. The momentum generated by the adoption of the law and the measurable targets associated with it must therefore be used to step up implementation – for example with regard to heat protection or dealing with low water levels. And here, too, social issues must be given greater consideration - which groups in Germany are particularly affected by the consequences of climate change? Who can afford to install air conditioning and its associated electricity costs? Who suffers most from hot air, which is then additionally pumped into the streets from the lofts of big cities? In short: How can climate-friendly and socially just climate adaptation be achieved?

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