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Disaster risk reduction

Over the past few years, Europe has experienced every type of natural disasters: severe floods, droughts, and forest fires with devastating effects on people's lives, the European economy and the environment. In the past decade, the European Commission adopted several strategies and actions to cope with disaster risk reduction as, for instance, the Floods Directive and its implementation (timetable), the EU Action on Water Scarcity and Drought, the Green Paper on insurance in the context of natural and man-made disasters. The 2014 legislation, strengthening European policy on disaster management implementation is key and includes a Decision on revised EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Since 2015, the EC has been involved in cooperating with the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) resulting in the global Post-2015 Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Policy framework

Disaster risk reduction is a long term effort designed to encourage investments in risk prevention and preparation for action before a disaster strikes. To fully implement the EU framework for the prevention of disasters, the Commission, together with the Member States, are engaged in a number of activities, as outlined in the 2010 Commission Communication on the prevention of natural and man-made disasters that aims to integrate policies and instruments related to disaster risk assessment, forecasting, prevention, preparedness and recovery.

Developing a risk management culture

In December 2010, the Commission issued the working paper Risk assessment and mapping guidelines for disaster management, developed together with the national authorities of the Member States. The guidelines examine processes and methods of risk assessment as carried out within the broader framework of risk management and risk mitigation. They are based on a multi-hazard and multi-risk approach, covering in principle all natural and man-made disasters.

EU Member States used the above mentioned guidelines to develop their national risk management processes and provide the Commission with relevant risk information. On the basis of this information and other internal and external resources, in 2013 the Commission produced an overview of the major risks faced by the EU, also taking into account the future impacts of climate change.

Enhancing the EU level of preparedness to disasters

Preparedness activities are being undertaken at EU level to help reach a state of readiness and capability of human and material means, to ensure an effective and rapid response to disasters. Early Warning Systems (for disasters in general, more in details for flood, drought, and forest fires), modules and training programs are essential parts of these activities.

The 2010 Commission Communication 'Towards a stronger European disaster response: the role of civil protection and humanitarian assistance' proposed a number of measures in order to improve the planning of EU civil protection operations. This includes the development of contingency plans together with the Member States, such as assets mapping, from a number of scenarios for the main types of disaster on which the Commission has already started working.

EU actions for post-disaster management and recovery

In 2002, in response to a massive flood event in central and Eastern Europe, the Commission created the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF). This instrument was created to help the Member States in case of major disasters and aimed at funding disaster relief, restoration of public infrastructures, and protection of cultural heritage.

Spreading best practices and developing awareness-raising campaigns

The European Commission collected information focused on specific risks (earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, storms, droughts and heat waves) and horizontal measures (such as infrastructure design) which were summarized in an inventory of more than 450 examples of good practices from over 35 countries and that were also analyzed in a specific report.


Improving the knowledge base

The Commission is encouraging the production of better information and comparability of disaster data, such as information on the costs of disasters. With this aim, actions have been developed with the European Environment Agency (EEA) (e.g. through a report on impacts of disasters published in 2010 and an indicator on damages from weather and climate related events) and the Joint Research Center (JRC), in particular on the different types of natural and man-made hazards and on the respective risk assessment measures. JRC is also coordinating an action to improve national databases on disaster losses, and thus to improve comparability of data across countries in Europe. EEA published e.g. a report on impacts of disasters in 2010 and in 2016 an indicator on damages from weather and climate related events. A number of research projects supported by the FP7 (7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development) have furthermore contributed with knowledge on disaster risk reduction. Information on the impacts of disasters at European scale is available from organizations such as Munich Re (economic damages) and CRED/EMDAT (effects on human health). The research on disaster risk reduction is being further funded in the frame of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme (2014 to 2020). On September 2015, the EU Commission launched the Disaster Risk Management Knowledge Centre (DRMKC) to help enhance EU and Member State resilience to disasters and their capacity to prevent, prepare and respond to emergencies through a strengthened interface between science and policy.


Supporting investment and funding

Encouraging effective and greater investment in disaster prevention is a priority action for the European Commission. EU funding for adaptation is supported by the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, which ensures that climate adaptation actions have been integrated into all the major EU spending programmes. Further information can be found here.

With regard to this priority action, the Commission is actively working to promote:

  • effective use of EU funding for prevention of disasters;
  • introduction of conditionality in EU funding - linking the level of funding to Member States to the prevention measures put in place;
  • increased use of disaster insurance policies with risk based premiums for households, the public sector, business and agriculture, and the possibility of insurance pooling;
  • exploration of the possible use of insurance-linked securities (Catastrophe bonds) and other alternative risk transfer instruments in the European context to raise additional finance on the international capital markets and thus reduce the costs of insurance.


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