Species–climate ‘envelope’ models are widely used to evaluate potential climate change impacts upon species and biodiversity. Previous studies have used a variety of methods to fit models making it difficult to assess relative model performance for different taxonomic groups, life forms or trophic levels. Here we use the same climatic data and modelling approach for 306 European species representing three major taxa (higher plants, insects and birds), and including species of different life form and from four trophic levels. Goodness-of-fit measures showed that useful models were fitted for >96% of species, and that model performance was related neither to major taxonomic group nor to trophic level. These results confirm that such climate envelope models provide the best approach currently available for evaluating reliably the potential impacts of future climate change upon biodiversity.