European State of the Climate 2020 is now out!

Photo by Lucian Potlog from Pexels

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This comprehensive review of last year’s climate data published by the European Commission, highlights that in 2020, greenhouse gas concentrations have not decreased. Average annual temperatures kept soaring and precipitation patterns have been disrupted. “Storm Alex”, the extreme climate event that left two valleys of Parc National du Mercantour in France in complete disarray is a sad but plain example.

Our most recent work shows that Protected Areas and the habitats, species and communities they shelter are at risk. Yet, as the best remnants of European nature and healthy socio-ecosystems, they play an important and ongoing part in climate regulation and mitigation. They offer natural solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change negative effects and build a nature-inclusive climate-resilient society.

The European State of the Climate 2020

For the fourth time, the European State of the Climate (ESOTC) report was released. It is compiled by the Copernicus Climate Change Services (C3S), which is implemented by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) on behalf of the European Commission. The ESOTC provides a detailed analysis of the past calendar year for Europe, as well as a short overview of the global context in 2020 and a focus on the Arctic.

Key Learnings

Many had possibly hoped that due to the COVID-19 crisis, emissions would decrease and allow for “a moment to breath”. The results are sadly underwhelming. Concentrations of greenhouse gases continued to increase and were in fact the highest measured by satellites since the start of observations in 2003. Overall, 2020 was the hottest year on record for Europe. Globally, it was one of the three warmest years ever recorded. Winter in northeastern Europe was exceptionally warm, with an average temperature that was nearly 1.9°C higher than the previous record in 2008. This, for example, resulted in unusually low sea ice cover in the northern part of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland and very few snow days in the area around the southern Baltic Sea.

Other abnormalities were related to precipitation, where a wetter-than-average winter transitioned into a dry spring in northwest Europe. Persistent dry conditions remained from spring through to autumn across western continual Europe. Additionally, river discharge was at its lowest since 1991 with high fluctuations throughout the year due to storm Alex among others.

The EU Climate Law

Reports like the ESOTC are important indicators for policy makers to help produce a roadmap to achieve their goals. The European Commission’s Green Deal strives to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. To achieve that goal, an agreement on the European Climate Law was reached last week. Negotiators from the EU Parliament and Member States agreed to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by “at least 55%” by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. That objective will therefore also become a legal obligation for the EU and its member states.

Protected Areas network, a keystone of climate-resilient societies

This report is highlighting the urgency to mitigate and adapt to the negative effects of climate change as the trend is not slowing down.

Climate change as well as global nature loss and degradation are currently affecting the very conditions upon which human communities and wildlife depend. Although local and regional assessments are required, Protected Areas are globally vulnerable to climate change. It causes disruptions in ecosystem structures and processes, directly or indirectly impacting species and biodiversity.

Yet, at the same time, Protected Areas offer solutions to tackle those twin challenges. As the best remnants of natural ecosystems, Protected Areas play an important and ongoing part in climate regulation and mitigation. They offer natural solutions and can actively contribute to the implementation, at multiple geopolitical scales, of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and the EU strategy on climate change adaptation.

Helping Protected Areas adapt to climate change

As an active partner of LIFE Natur’Adapt, EUROPARC is helping and engaging its community of members to integrate climate change adaptation in their management practices.

With the support of a dedicated task force, EUROPARC is:

  • Developing a policy brief for decision makers;
  • Organising live exchanges among peers;
  • Sharing knowledge and experience, which include the project’s latest results.

You can read all about the LIFE Natur’Adapt project here. If you have any experience or questions, do not hesitate to contact EUROPARC’s project manager, Olivier de Sadeleer []

You can find the ESOTC report here.