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The role of Europe in building system-wide resilience to cross-border climate impacts

This report discusses how the European Union (EU) and the EU member states, individually, collectively, and through their cooperation with international organisations, address cascading and cross-border climate impacts in agri-food systems in third countries with close ties to Europe. It also sheds light on Europe’s main strategic challenges to building system-wide resilience in the face of cross-border climate impacts and provides policy recommendations on overcoming them.

Magnus Benzie, Sara Talebian / Published on 20 October 2023

Benzie, M., Desmidt, S., Detges, A., Farhan, A., Grafham, O., Morales Muñoz, H., Talebian, S., Tondel, F., & Wolfmaier, S. (2023). The role of Europe in building system-wide resilience to cross-border climate impacts. CASCADES Research report.

In a globalised world, economies, societies, and ecosystems are interconnected through multiple flows, such as trade links and global markets, financial interdependencies, and people’s movement. When climate events such as droughts and flooding occur in one part of the world, the consequences can be transmitted to other countries, regions, and continents. These cascading or cross-border climate impacts traverse national borders and jurisdictional boundaries, posing risks to countries and communities distant from the initial origin of impact. For example, in a region like the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a combination of higher temperatures and water shortages could reduce agricultural yields, causing disruptions in food value chains and potentially leading people to move out of agriculture due to reduced opportunities. Consequently, increased rural-urban migration could strain public services such as water, energy, and food. These factors can exacerbate social unrest and regional instability, increasing migration towards Europe. Unsafe or illegal migration may create opportunities for organised crime (e.g., human trafficking) and entail various risks for migrants (e.g., accidents, violence, exploitation).

Agri-food systems are often crucial in risk cascades that connect climatic shocks with other challenges, such as disrupted economies or displacements. They also are a logical entry point for interrupting such cascades early on and for preventing climate shocks from propagating across domains (e.g., food, economy, health, security) and borders.

The strong likelihood of increasing impacts makes the question of how the European Union (EU) and its member states, in close cooperation with global actors, might build resilience in its surrounding regions an increasingly strategic political priority.

Image with Landscape, Wheat fields, Natuu.

Landscape, Wheat fields, Natuu.

Photo: Steve Buissinne / Pixabay

SEI authors

Profile picture of Magnus Benzie
Magnus Benzie

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Oxford

Sara Talebian
Sara Talebian

Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

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