This policy brief, from two European research projects analysing the global dimension of climate change impacts on Europe, presents a number of COVID-19 lessons for European climate change research and policy:
- The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting many areas of decision-making and policy planning. Lockdowns, economic shocks and public recovery packages are affecting the way we plan for the future, and have shifted societal values and perceptions of risk. Societies across the world have rapidly developed a “new normal”, whilst coping mechanisms and levels of cooperation vastly differ across the globe, significantly affecting impacts and costs. This context should be taken as a new starting point when planning for future crises.
- Like COVID-19, climate change impacts have the potential to disrupt society via interconnected global networks. Governments, businesses and large organizations trying to anticipate future disruption must take a “systemic” perspective when designing policies to reduce and manage these risks. This approach will have significant implications for how risks are mapped, assessed and managed.
- It is essential to understand how to respond to other high impact events in order to reduce risks and increase the overall system resilience and preparedness. These events are likely to occur more frequently in a world that is warming and increasing in connectivity and interdependence.
- Responses to the pandemic and the pandemic itself - as with climate change - have had the most detrimental effects on the most vulnerable groups. The ongoing fallout from COVID-19 demonstrates the need for greater multilateral and regional attention to resilience, particularly in terms of trade, fiscal stimulus policies and social safety-nets. But it is important to think of resilience as a process of evolution: current reforms and measures must lead to better preparation for not only future pandemics, but also for a range of events and compound events induced by a changing climate.
- Actions to approach climate change as a systemic rather than a localized risk include collaborative ways to identify and visualize direct and indirect impact cascades that cross economic sectors and regional boundaries, and redefine the goals of climate adaptation plans to address system-wide resilience.
- Scenario tools and social simulation techniques are useful tools to support stakeholders’ preparedness and contingency planning. These toolsshould be deployed more widely to foster system-wide risk mitigation and management strategies.