In our interconnected world, an event occurring in one country or sector can have effects that quickly ripple out – cascading across continents, and often escalating fast, to impact the lives and livelihoods of those living far from the source. Climate change is an urgent case in point. The impacts of climate change, from sudden shocks such as floods or droughts to slower onset events such as sea-level rise, are generating cascading effects that cross borders and reverberate through international systems – effects which will only become more acute with time. The responses to such real or perceived risks – how we choose to adapt – can also catalyse cross-border impacts, presenting both risks and opportunities to others.

With its global links and strong integration in multilateral processes, evidence suggests Europe is likely to be highly exposed to the‘transboundary’ nature of climate risk. The impacts could be wide-ranging – undermining the resilience of international trade and supply chains, global financial markets and natural resource flows, or increasing instability in security and diplomatic relations and the migration and displacement of people. Yet many European policymakers are unaware of these risks and under-prepared for their potential effect on fragile systems.

The nature of transboundary climate risk suggests that adaptation actions must be integrated into a wide number of policies – covering not just climate (and the EU’s new strategy on climate change adaptation, due 2021) but also trade, finance, development, emergency response and security.


Over four years, 2019-2023, CASCADES will:

  • Identify the most relevant and potentially significant impacts of cascading climate risks for Europe
  • Provide in-depth analysis of the trade, political and financial channels through which such risks flow
  • Draw out the strategic priorities and institutional options for building adaptive capacity and resilience to such risks, and critically examine how European policies can be designed to enhance risk management and reduce conflicts and trade-offs between sectors and objectives.

SEI will support all aspects of CASCADES, including the development of a conceptual framework for assessing cascading climate risks and generating 360° risk assessments. We’ll take a deep dive into assessing climate risks for European trade, supply and value chains and play a leadership role in deriving new insights into the governance of cascading climate risks in Europe.

As a result of CASCADES, European member states will be better equipped to assess the transboundary climate risks to which they are exposed and will hold an enhanced understanding of the range of policy implications they present. The European Union will also be better placed to harness the collaborative governance mechanisms that could enhance preparedness and strengthen resilience – supporting member states to mitigate and manage cascading climate risks, today and in the future, and harness the new alliances and strategic opportunities they present.