Combating Climate Change: The German Adaptation Strategy
The climate is changing worldwide – and so are our living conditions. If we do not succeed in slowing the pace of global climate change, experts expect far-reaching consequences for the environment, society and the economy. That is why Germany, together with the member states of the European Union (EU), is seeking to contain the rise in mean global temperature. Experts consider that two degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperature levels is an acceptable maximum for keeping the consequences manageable. If this is to be achieved, climaterelevant emissions of greenhouse gases must be reduced worldwide, by the industrialised countries in particular.
But climate change has already started. Even if we succeed in meeting the two-degree target, many things will no longer be the same as before. Ecological, social and economic consequences are already making themselves felt in many regions, and they will probably increase in the years ahead.
To minimise the adverse effects, we first need to step up climate protection. Secondly, we need to take precautions in the form of adaptation: the adverse effects of foreseeable changes on society and nature should be kept to a minimum. It is therefore important to reduce their vulnerability (see Glossary - Vulnerability) and help them adapt flexibly to the new situation. Also, we must not fail to take advantage of the opportunities that climate change opens up for certain areas. For example, new openings could emerge in the fields of tourism, agriculture and environmental technology. Taking appropriate and timely action, e.g. through far-sighted planning and construction, not only prevents avoidable damage. It also saves future generations from having to make even greater efforts to achieve the same results.
In view of all this, one thing is clear: adaptation measures are no substitute for climate protection. If temperatures in the global greenhouse increase, the cost of adaptation measures will also increase. Conversely, it is also true that keeping down the amount of harmful greenhouse gases that escape into the atmosphere helps to keep down the cost of adaptation. To this extent there is an inextricable connection between climate protection and adaptation: they are two sides of the same coin, and form the two pillars on which Germany’s climate policy is built.
Whereas climate protection involves quantifiable targets – namely the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced – the target of adaptation measures is less easy to express in concrete terms: the important consideration here is to reduce the vulnerability of natural, social and economic systems. It also seeks to improve their capacity to adapt to new situations.
These are complex demands, in which not only a large number of actors and decision-making levels have a role to play. There are also interactions between different sectors such as agriculture and water management, which means that benefits for one area may give rise to undesirable side-effects elsewhere. As a result, it is not only necessary to identify the interactions, but also to weigh up any advantages and disadvantages that arise.
This will frequently lead to a need to rewrite the original plan. For this reason it is essential that all concerned are aware of what the others are doing and what goals they are pursuing. only then is it possible to identify and resolve conflicts. particularly because the problem is so complex, it is absolutely essential to take a structured approach and ensure transparency.