Wilfried Kraus, Chair, JPI Climate
Joint programming efforts are gathering momentum in Europe. Here, International Innovation speaks with Wilfried Kraus, Chair of the Governing Board of JPI Climate about their efforts to unify climate research and improve the efficacy of European member states related research activities in this area
Climate change poses a huge threat to Europe’s sustainable economic development. How is the work of JPI Climate supporting Europe to confront this challenge?
Climate change is a complex reality, affecting European society at large. Understanding and responding to climate change requires coordinated and large-scale European efforts in research, innovation and governance. JPI Climate provides a platform where these objectives can be met. To date, 16 European countries (13 member countries and three observer countries) and four European institutions and initiatives – NordForsk, ERA-Net CIRCLE2, European Environment Agency (EEA) and European Climate Research Alliance (ECRA) – have committed to JPI Climate. We published our Strategic Research Agenda in May 2011.
This major new Member State-driven initiative aims at aligning national research priorities according to a jointly agreed Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) with the goal of complementing and supporting initiatives at the European level, shaping and contributing to the European Research Area (ERA). Coordinating European climate research and activities will help exploit synergies and enhance the connectivity of climate knowledge with policy and decision making.
The initiative is built upon four interconnected modules which are grouped around a core and connected in multiple ways:
• Moving towards Reliable Decadal Climate Predictions
• Researching and Advancing Climate Service Development
• Sustainable Transformations of Society in the Face of Climate Change
• Improving Tools for Decision Making under Climate Change
Our integrative approach is stated in our title ‘JPI Climate: Connecting climate knowledge for Europe’
Could you outline the approaches that you are using? Which strategies are proving to be most effective?
Most importantly, JPI Climate promotes the idea of a fireplace: it views itself as a platform where the policies of the involved countries and member institutions, representing more than €200 million of climate research funding in Europe per year, can be aligned. As such, these efforts have the potential to become a vital and important point of reference for research policies in the ERA landscape as well as globally.
JPI Climate focuses on the connections between research priority areas, synthesises new scientific findings into policy-relevant information and translates results to practical societal use in order to contribute to knowledge-based policy development and decision making. This approach is new. It will integrate climate knowledge, in support of sectoral and regional policy and decision making by a range of stakeholders at different levels.
In what ways do you facilitate the coordination, collaboration and exploitation of synergies? How do you avoid fragmentation and duplication of efforts?
The Initiative proposes a robust and innovative European initiative, adding value by integrating and expanding climate change research in a truly transnational, coordinated effort. It will overcome fragmentation in climate change research while maintaining creative diversity.
JPI Climate will contribute to the overall EU objective of building the ERA through enhanced cooperation and coordination of national research programmes. This will be achieved through the development of short-, medium- and long-term joint activities. We see joint research funding as one out of several potentially beneficial ways of collaborating, with other mechanisms including: alignment of national research programmes, workshops, academic courses, facilitation of research exchange programmes, joint research infrastructures and targeted policy support actions.
The duplication of efforts is tackled for instance in climate services development. Also as a platform for coordinating science on climate predictions and observations across Europe, this Joint Programming Initiative offers an important progression from the current and mainly national activities. Through coordinated modelling and observations, JPI Climate will provide scientific evidence and advice to European governments and society coordinated at the EU level.
We built a network of strong partners sharing a vision of the challenges ahead and of the ways to tackle them. JPI Climate partners are committed to delivering the aims of the joint initiative by pooling resources to implement joint activities. At the moment we are preparing the implementation of fast track activities, such as better understanding of user needs in climate services, and comparison of impact models across sectors. The latter is intended to provide input into the next assessment report of the International Panel on Climate Change.
One of JPI Climate’s aims is to establish a network of climate service providers. How essential is the exchanging of knowledge in terms of developing and delivering climate services?
The climate science community finds itself increasingly confronted with specific demands for climate-related information from different sectors. As a result, many countries are currently developing climate services capacity, producing knowledge-based information about projected regional and sectoral climate changes and impacts. Currently, each provider uses its own methods/approaches for data and information, even though all services are actually based on the same core information (climate models, climate observations, climate scenarios etc.). Climate services are still generally organised on a national level. Hence, we find duplication of efforts and a significant degree of inconsistency. Consistency on a European level would be relevant with regard to data availability, improved tools/methods and for cross-border issues (eg. management of river basins, mountain areas or coastlines). In the context of the above JPI Climate aims to improve the efficiency of the planning, development and quality of climate services in Europe as well as enhancing consistency in the methods used in order to avoid duplication of efforts.
To what extent do you facilitate interdisciplinary research? How do you effectively combine natural and socioeconomic sciences?
We contribute to achieving a competitive advantage for Europe by improving the knowledge base for ongoing international negotiations and enhancing decision-making capacities on various levels with regards to climate change. In a nutshell, JPI Climate aims to provide integrated climate knowledge and decision support services for societal, political and business innovation by strengthening interdisciplinary integration in climate research and bridging knowledge production with knowledge application.
The four modules are designed as mutually interdependent and are connected through cross-cutting activities contributing to a joint core. This aim of connecting climate knowledge requires interdisciplinarity and also transdisciplinarity in the sense of joint knowledge production of science, policy and society.
The main added value of JPI Climate is to enhance the connectivity between the currently fragmented climate research, learning and innovation landscape. Greater integration will be secured in three domains. This is firstly society: bridging scientific knowledge production with the needs of policy and decision makers and societal stakeholders for knowledge on climate change, leading to more effective policies. Secondly, this is science, connecting different disciplinary approaches in natural and social sciences leading to interdisciplinary research efforts of higher quality and relevance. Thirdly, it is European, connecting top researchers and research groups from different countries in Europe, leading to high quality and efficient research efforts, long-term collaborations and a stronger global position.
How are you working to implement sustainable societal transformations of society in response to climate change?
It is widely recognised in Europe that responding effectively to the long-term challenge of climate change will require fundamental transformations of our production and consumption patterns, as well as the way we deal with climate change-related risks in spatial and sectoral planning. Understanding of societal transformation processes is needed to stimulate and govern the innovations that are needed to achieve a climate-friendly and climate-proof Europe. JPI Climate will bring together the disparate European social and economic research efforts on sustainable societal transformations.
How will the work of JPI Climate inform decision makers? To what extent can you influence policy?
We aim to respond to the needs of policy/decision makers, business and European society at large for knowledge-based information and services to address climate change. The initiative aims to close critical knowledge gaps by combining and connecting climate-related scientific approaches. This enables European society, through a systemic approach considering the complexity of our social, economic and ecological systems, to cope with climate change and take responsibility for reducing and minimising its negative consequences.
Connecting complex scientific knowledge with policy and decision making requires practice-oriented methods. These include scenarios in support of policy development, integrated assessment models, guidance tools, methods for evaluating response options or tools for spatial assessment. Such instruments will be further developed, compared and applied in close interaction and dialogue between researchers and stakeholders at different levels. JPI Climate provides a forum within which tools from across Europe can be brought together and strengthened.
The Initiative connects climate science to policy and decision making, enhances coordination, quality and continuity in climate research programming, increases efficiency by avoiding fragmentation and duplication, and enhances Europe’s competitive position in science.
As the fireplace, the platform for aligning policies and research activities, JPI Climate’s impact can be considerable and we have concrete aspirations for the future.
What are these future aspirations? How are you looking to expand on your efforts?
These efforts are gaining force at present and we are building the structures and contents which we will need to become fully operational. Even now, the work we are engaging in is proving to be very fruitful. We have started strong collaboration processes and effective coordination mechanisms between many leading European countries in the field.
To date, JPI climate involves 20 partners who are jointly responsible for a large share of the overall European budget spent on climate change research.
Looking ahead, we want to establish JPI Climate as the leading platform through which European institutions (Commission, Council and Parliament) can access knowledge about climate research policy, drawing from the member states who are our partners. Conversely, the Strategic Research Agenda of JPI Climate is a point of reference for future R&D programmes and research activities at the European level, such as Horizon 2020. The JPI Climate platform will connect new members and new countries, enhancing climate research capacities throughout Europe. Furthermore, this will enable the development of relationships with relevant international activities, such as the Strategic Forum for International Science and Technology Cooperation and international global change programmes.
While we are doing this interview, we are working towards implementing fast-track activities and further development of our implementation plans. Only recently, we submitted our proposal for a Coordination and Support Action in the Seventh Framework Programme and received positive results from the evaluation process. This is an important milestone in further accelerating our efforts towards implementation.