Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 763–776 | Cite as

Cross-border climate change impacts: implications for the European Union

  • Magnus BenzieEmail author
  • Timothy R. Carter
  • Henrik Carlsen
  • Richard Taylor
Original Article


The European Union (EU) is increasingly connected to the rest of the world via flows of people, capital, goods and resources, exposing it to the potential impacts of climate change occurring outside its borders, in addition to impacts occurring on and between EU countries themselves. However, there is currently no peer-reviewed literature that describes the way in which cross-border impacts might affect the EU as a whole, or what the pattern of exposure to cross-border impacts might look like from a European perspective. This paper describes the pathways via which the EU may be impacted and analyses indicator data to identify some of the potential key issues for EU adaptation. We find that many EU countries are more exposed than the global average to climate-related risks in the context of transboundary water dependency, trade openness, openness to asylum and globalisation. We introduce a typology of cross-border climate change impacts to guide future assessments and adaptation planning in the European Union: EU internal aspects resulting from climate risks shared between neighbouring member states and within the single market; EU external aspects resulting from climate impacts beyond the EU’s borders; and EU impacts on the rest of the world, recognising that the EU and its member states will themselves transmit impacts to others depending on the success of their own adaptation efforts. Cross-border climate impacts raise a number of challenges for EU adaptation—such as applying existing cohesion and external action mechanisms to build resilience to cross-border climate change impacts, or monitoring member states to track changes in exposure to “internal” cross-border climate risks; and to research—such as making better use of economic, trade and other supply chain modelling and data analysis to assess climate-related risks, as well as other methods and approaches that have not been applied widely in adaptation studies to date. Overcoming these challenges will help to advance society’s understanding of and preparedness for cross-border climate change impacts.


Climate change impacts Adaptation strategies Risk exposure Cross-border Spillover Globalisation European Union Cascading effects 



The authors wish to acknowledge the substantial contributions made by Oskar Wallgren for original conceptual development; Georgia Savvidou, Frida Lager, Fanny Groundstroem and Nina Pirttioja for contributing to the review material and preparing summary figures and tables; and Åsa Persson for the critical review and contributions.


Financial support from the European Commission Seventh Framework Programme project IMPRESSIONS (Impacts and Risks From Higher-End Scenarios—Grant Agreement No. 603416) and valuable contributions and feedback from project partners were provided. Additional funding was provided by Formas, The Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development, Sida, who provide core support to the Stockholm Environment Institute and the PLUMES (Pathways Linking Uncertainties in Model Projections of Climate and Its Effects) project of the Academy of Finland (decision 277276).

Supplementary material

10113_2018_1436_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.8 mb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 1864 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI)StockholmSweden
  2. 2.Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE)HelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Oxford CentreOxfordUK

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