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Tatu Sailaranta: The EU’s policy of adapting to climate change should be better aligned with its trade policy

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2020-09-24 Tatu Sailaranta
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In May the European Commission announced a plan for a new strategy for adapting to climate change. The plan highlights the importance of taking adjusting to climate change into consideration in foreign and security policy. It hardly deals with trade policy at all.

As part of the CASCADES project of the Finnish Environment Institute I wrote a literature review on how compatible the EU's trade and financial policy and its foreign and security policy are with its climate policy. I went through the relevant EU policy documents. The most interesting of these was the EU’s plan for a new strategy for adapting to climate change.

In the plan various policy sectors are prioritised very differently. The need for financial policy to adapt, also in the private sector, has been considered quite extensively. For example, it is emphasised that incentives for the private sector to invest in adapting should be improved.

The strategy is ambitious also in foreign and security policy. For example, one of the goals that is set is the extension of the economic and social model of The European Green Deal  to development policy.

The EU's trade relations might suffer from the effects of climate change

It is worth noting that the plan for a new strategy for adapting to climate change hardly touches upon trade policy at all. The terms “trade” and “supply chain”, which are crucial for trade policy, come up only a few times and the mentions are quite general in nature. The “Trade for All” strategy, a key document for the Commission's trade policy, pays just as little heed to questions of climate and climate change.

However, observations in the research literature, for example, in OECD reports, indicate that EU trade relations, and especially supply chains, can suffer from the effects of climate change.

The effects can directly target infrastructure and store chains, or they can be indirectly reflected in production. For example, a raw material that is important for production might not be procured if the raw material comes from a country suffering from extreme weather phenomena exacerbated by climate change.

Cooperation and compatibility among the different political sectors of the EU should be as seamless as possible in curbing climate change and adapting to its effects. Science and research play an important role in this.

EU trade policy seems to have focused largely on the creation of lucrative trade relations. Now might be a good time to examine trade on a broader level: How could bilateral trade between countries promote the ability of different countries to better adapt to climate change?

My study is part of the CASCADES project of the Horizon Europe programme. The project examines how the effects of climate change outside the EU are reflected in the EU’s financial sector, international trade, and politics. The project aims at strengthening cooperation and compatibility among different political sectors.

Tatu Sailaranta is working at the Finnish Environment Institute as a research assistant in the CASCADES project through the end of September. In addition to supporting the coherence of the EU's adaptation policy and political sectors he is interested in hiking, swimming, and the undertakings of the Inter Milan football team.

The CASCADES project 

CAScading Climate risks: towards ADaptive and resilient European Societies (CASCADES)

Opinions of blog contributors do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the Finnish Environment Institute

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