Germany is feeling the effects of climate change. Heat waves and heavy precipitation have become more frequent and intense in the country.
For example, the 2018 summer was scorching and dry, and the July 2021 floods were the worst disaster in half a century, killing almost 200 people. The country is also seeing a trend of milder winters. The country saw a high number of heat-related deaths, with an excess of 5,477 (8%) cases than in the previous year in June and up to 6,502 (18%) of excess deaths in July.
The extreme events and their impacts on lives, infrastructure, and society drew attention to the importance of adapting to climate change and natural disasters.
Germany had its first adaptation strategy fifteen years ago when the Federal Cabinet adopted the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change on 17 December 2008. But despite this, climate adaptation measures have remained mostly voluntary, and the country has not been able to integrate climate adaptation into decision-making at all levels, according to Clean Energy Wire.
In 2011, the Adaptation Action Plan (Aktionsplan Anpassung; APA) followed, which determined the measures needed to develop further and implement the Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (Deutsche Anpassungsstrategie an den Klimawandel). In 2015, a progress report concerning the implementation of the strategy was published. Additionally, many federal states have also delivered their adaptation strategies. In 2021, the Federal Environment Agency released its most comprehensive analysis of the risks and effects of climate change to date, showing that climate change effects are already permeating all aspects of society. The report will also be updated every six years. In 2022, the government announced the Emergency Climate Adaptation Programmed, which provides municipalities with funding building expertise, tailored advice, and educates citizens on future climatic conditions.
And in 2023, the government adopted a federal climate adaptation law, the Climate Adaptation Act. On 13 July 2023, the Federal Environment Ministry submitted the draft of the climate adaptation law. “The law creates the first strategic framework for precautionary climate adaptation on all administrative levels in Germany. Cities and municipalities have a special responsibility when it comes to taking specific precautionary measures to tackle the impacts of the climate crisis. This draft law is therefore intended to task the Länder with ensuring systematic and comprehensive climate adaptation strategies on their administrative level as well as climate adaptation concepts for areas of municipalities and districts. With the law, the German government also commits to pursuing a precautionary climate adaptation strategy with measurable goals in future.”
Germany’s climate adaptation projects
Municipalities along the Bocholter Aa river in western Germany joined forces to be better protected against floods. The project received a federal ‘Blue Compass’ Award 2022, the highest governmental award for climate adaptation projects.
Private sectors are also advancing adaptation measures. An enterprise in central Germany’s Hessen also received a Blue Compass award for growing seasonable vegetables where the consumers are, being resource and land-efficient, and constantly adapting their strategy to changing temperatures – also known as integrated and dynamic agricultural planning.
Who has the responsibility to adapt to climate change?
According to The Federal Environment Agency, everyone must be able to adapt to climate change, from the federal level to municipalities and local level, companies, and individuals.
The federal government creates a framework for adaptation to the impacts of climate change across the country. For instance, the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change describes the Federation’s role and guides other actors. Federal states and various societal groups will progressively assess risks, ascertain action needs, define appropriate objectives, and develop and implement potential adaptation measures.
Municipalities have a crucial role because many climate adaptation measures are implemented at the local levels, including making infrastructures like roads, water infrastructure, public buildings, and other public assets climate resilient.
Companies and industries must also adapt to rising temperatures and extreme events that could disrupt operations and damage infrastructure. They have a role in developing industry-specific strategies and measures to address and be resilient to climate change impacts.
Lastly, individuals can adapt by insulating or shading their homes from extreme heat. Alternatively, individuals can increase their awareness about the local threats of climate change and learn how to prepare for it.
KomPass, a section of the German Environment Agency, has developed tools for climate change adaptation with information and concrete recommendations for different audiences.
The need to adapt
Investing in climate adaptation will cost significantly less than inaction, so it is in the best interest of Germany to adapt to climate change.
Extreme weather events caused by climate change have already cost Germany at least 80 billion euros since 2018, according to a 2022 report commissioned by the Economy and Climate Action Ministry (BMWK). On average, extreme heat, drought, and floods have cost the country at least 6.6 billion euros per year in damages over the past two decades. The number of heat-related fatalities and the size of the area burned down by forest fires is also increasing.
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