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News article29 June 2020Directorate-General for Research and Innovation3 min read

New scientific opinion on ‘Adaptation to climate change-related health effects’ recommends more support for resilience of the health sector

Today, the European Commission’s independent Group of Chief Scientific Advisors (SAM) published their opinion ‘Adaptation to climate change-related health effects’ which contains advice and recommendations on how the EU can help to make our societies, and in particular health sector, better prepared and more resilient with respect to impacts from climate change on health.

Frans Timmermans , Executive Vice President for the European Green Deal, said:

“Europeans are already seeing and feeling the impacts of climate change. We must invest now in reinforcing the capacity of the Union’s social and economic fabric to better withstand the next flood, the next heatwave, the next disease outbreak. And we must start from those among us who are the most vulnerable. This report shows us with scientific rigour that we can prepare, and how”.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said:

“The current COVID-19 crisis throws into sharp focus the importance of resilient societies and of their health sectors. Now is the moment to take action, to ensure human health is at the heart of our climate-change adaptation policies and to make sure no one is left behind.  We must complement our efforts to reduce the effects of climate change with those which enable us to adapt to it. This scientific opinion draws on all available evidence and world-leading experts to do just that.”

The opinion recommends to integrate human health into all climate-change adaptation policies, support resilience of the health sector and to design policies to support the most vulnerable social groups and geographical areas.

Detailed recommendations:

  • Integrate human health into all climate-change adaptation policies: The EU provides strategic direction and co-ordination at the global, national and regional level to integrate human health  into all climate change adaptation policies. The opinion recommends policy learning across all policy sectors and governance levels, evidence-based assessment of adaptation actions, and closing evidence gaps.
  • Support the resilience of the health sector: The EU should support the capacity and preparedness of the health sector for dealing with climate change, as part of broader disaster and emergency risk strategies, including surveillance, monitoring and assessment.
  • Design policies to support the most vulnerable social groups and geographical areas: Particular focus should be placed on reinforcing adaptation actions in geographical areas that are particularly vulnerable to health-relevant hazards resulting from climate change, such as heat waves, vector-borne infectious diseases, floods and droughts.

The opinion informs several initiatives of the Green Deal, including the forthcoming proposal for a Climate Observatory and the EU Adaptation Strategy planned for 2021.


On this scientific opinion:

The Group began its work on this Opinion in October 2019, answering the question, “Which adaptation measures could strengthen the resilience of the health sector in Europe in view of climate change?” The Opinion is restricted to human health, with a focus on Europe within a global context.

Responding to climate change involves a two-pronged approach: reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) (mitigation) and taking actions to help individuals, communities, organisations and natural systems to deal with those consequences of climate change that cannot be avoided (adaptation). Translating this in the context of health impacts, the World Health Organisation (WHO) defines adaptation as the process of ‘designing, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating strategies, policies and programmes to manage the risks of climate-relevant health outcomes’. 

The Opinion considers the evidence on the various health impacts and the effectiveness of adaptive measures, and possibilities for co-beneficial health gains of the integration of mitigation measures.

On the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors:

The European Commission’s Group of Chief Scientific Advisors contribute to the quality of EU legislation through the provision of independent scientific advice to the Commission.

The Advisors are seven eminent scientists, appointed in their personal capacities and who advise the Members of the European Commission on issues of public interest. The Group draws on a wide range of scientific expertise, primarily through the Horizon 2020 supported SAPEA (Scientific Advice for Policy by European Academies) grant which brings together more than 100 European and national academies from over 40 countries.  

The Advisors are currently also working on other Opinions of relevance to the Green Deal. Their previous scientific opinion, “Towards a sustainable food system” informs the Farm to Fork strategy

More information


Publication date
29 June 2020
Directorate-General for Research and Innovation