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REmote Climate Effects and their Impact on European sustainability, Policy and Trade

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - RECEIPT (REmote Climate Effects and their Impact on European sustainability, Policy and Trade)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28

RECEIPT maps the sensitivity of five European socio-economic sectors to climate change features that occur outside its borders. Through trade, supply chains and multiple global interconnections climate change in other parts of the world indirectly affects the European society. Recent disasters such as hurricane Sandy (2011) or the Thailand floods (2011) show that the multidimensional and complex nature of interactions and remote climate effects are not well understood.
The project focuses on five sectors: agriculture, finance, international development, manufacturing and coastal infrastructure. Exploring and understanding remote climate effects involves wide-ranging and complex analysis and interpretation. In RECEIPT we take a bottom-up approach and keep a sector-oriented perspective. We are building sectoral ‘storylines’: narratives of consistent and plausible chains of events, stories and data that illustrate risk-oriented cause-effect interactions. The impact of climate change will be felt by stakeholders in these sectors in different ways. The storylines will evaluate drivers and impacts of specific events, and map changing climatic and socio-economic drivers onto the cause-effect chains, in order to illustrate the implications of climate change in a world different from today.
This first 18 month reporting period concentrated on the development of sector-specific storylines, including extensive stakeholder consultation, data analysis and model set-up. Research questions and activities vary between the work packages, as described below.

The agricultural work package (WP3) is exploring how dependent Europe is on global agriculture hotspots that are vulnerable to climate change. This work package has analysed for which commodities Europe has an import dependency exceeding 25%, and further focuses on three key products: soybean, palm oil and cacao. Climate change may directly impact soy production in Brazil, however soy-producing locations in Argentina or the USA might be simultaneously affected.

WP4 is looking into climate impacts on the public and private finance sector. When an extreme climate event occurs, governments may need to finance the losses. Insurance also takes an important role in financing the damages caused by natural disasters. In a storyline where hurricane Irma would reach Miami as well as the Caribbean countries, damages and losses will be high, with significant economic consequences for Europe. The Caribbean is home to several EU territories, which would need to access finance through the European Solidarity Fund. If the damage is very high, this fund may reach its limits.

Another work package (WP5) investigates the development, stability and resilience of countries with which the EU maintains strategic partnership relations. Extreme flooding and droughts can lead to internal displacement, shortage of resources, with consequences for the EU’s engagement with partner countries in these regions.

For manufacturing, WP6 analyses how extreme climate events affect production processes for goods from all around the world and how these disruptions can propagate along the supply routes to Europe. The storyline approach allows for an extreme weather event that occurred in the past to be projected into a warmer climate.

In WP7 the remote climate drivers selected for the analysis are the Antarctic land ice melt (leading to sea level rise), the Arctic sea-ice melt (impacting shipping routes), and Atlantic Ocean warming (that may influence hurricane occurrence and intensity). Via storylines, these climatic drivers are connected to future coastal infrastructure adaptation and expansion. Coastal infrastructures are long term investments; insights in the possible effects of sea level rise are very useful for national policy makers and infrastructure asset managers.

WP8 is charged to assess the cross-sectoral impacts of remote climate change and provide policy recommendations. Although most of the activity in this work package will take place later during the project, economic models are being set up to transfer risk insights into a pan-European economic risk assessment.

Initial storylines are based on historical events which could be linked to remote climate impacts on a European socio-economic sector. Possible impacts of climate change will be estimated by perturbing the initial storylines in multiple ways: climate change can affect intensity or frequency of climatic drivers, the transmission pathways and the societal response. The climatic drivers include long term changes in event drivers, intensity, timing, spatial patterns, and co-occurrence of events in different regions. In a future setting, the climate change concerns need to be coupled to future economic and social dimensions. Also, changes in several elementary elements of the social and economic systems need to be incorporated into alternative versions of the climate storyline (e.g. expected changes in the economic structure, energy, technology, demography).

The stakeholder involvement in the project has taken a different form than initially envisaged. The involvement of stakeholders was initially designed as a gain-gain collaboration: the storyline development would be driven by the stakeholder experience, while the stakeholders would benefit by the climate impact estimations produced by the project. The first discussions with stakeholders have revealed that the collaboration would rather benefit from an iterative approach: showcasing initial storylines compiled by the project researchers and contrasting them with the stakeholder experience.

RECEIPT, together with Horizon 2020 project CASCADES, has recently published a policy brief that provides information about the lessons drawn from COVID-19 for climate risk assessment and preparedness. The policy brief has been presented and discussed at EU webinars and lunch meetings. Also, a contribution for the information package for the COP26 is being prepared.
The application of the climate storyline approach and the development of first storylines is a learning experience resulting in a guiding practice towards the understanding of cross-border climate change manifestations in climate and human systems. New model chains and adjusted model formulations are tailored to sector-specific topics, including agricultural trade, insurance and risk from (tropical) cyclones.

The project has already resulted in influential papers, including in high level journals (Zappa et al., 2021, Ercin et al., 2021, Falkendal et al., 2021). Further on, the project has contributed to the UNDRR Global Assessment Report (GAR 2022) and the INFORM Risk reports and Climate risk Index. The work is relevant for IPCC activities, citations in upcoming IPCC reports are expected.

The COVID-19 pandemic is bringing previously unseen systemic and transboundary impacts, with many parallels to the impacts of climate change. RECEIPT, together with the Horizon 2020 project CASCADES has published a policy brief reflecting on the lessons drawn from COVID-19 on climate preparedness. The policy brief has enriched our understanding of the systemic nature of the way how climate change impacts will emerge. This knowledge will be visible in upcoming activities, particularly in WP8 (system integration and risk analysis).