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Cascading climate impacts: a new factor in European policy-making

Knowledge of how climate impacts occurring outside Europe might affect the continent is poor, and even less is known about what measures national governments and the European Union (EU) should take to address them. It is essential that policy-makers consider the risks of cross-border and cascading impacts and the Union’s range of influence for mitigating and preparing for them.

Policy Brief

Published on 1 January 2020

Author(s): Mikael Hildén, Glada Lahn, Timothy R. Carter, Richard J. T. Klein, Ilona M. Otto, Benjamin Pohl, Christopher P. O. Reyer, Fabien Tondel

Mikael Hildén et. al. (2020), 'Cascading climate impacts: a new factor in European policy-making',

Key messages

  • Impacts of climate change – such as droughts, floods, wildfires and sea-level rise – can have knock-on effects that cross borders and continents. With its strong links to the rest of the world, Europe is exposed not only to the regional effects of a changing climate, but also the fallout from those materialising elsewhere.
  • The effects can cascade and sometimes escalate through security relations, international trade, financial markets, international aid operations as well as migration. However, Europeans are only beginning to recognize the risks, and possible opportunities, associated with these impacts.

To date, cross-border and cascading climatic impacts have taken governments and business by surprise

  • To assess these risks and formulate effective responses demands the involvement of experts and decision-makers in areas such as political science, market regulation and banking who are not normally involved in climate policy discussions.
  • The European Green Deal and the EU’s actions on adaptation to climate change must recognize cross-border climate impacts and prepare to integrate risk management measures into a much wider group of policies, ranging from trade to welfare.