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Disaster risk reduction

Image credits: Joanne Francis on Unsplash, 2018

Key messages

  • Europe (and the rest of the world) are facing climate change already. Without prejudice to the necessity for climate change mitigation measures (and a net zero emission as soon as possible), adaptation is needed under all scenarios as the consequences of climate change will remain visible for the decades (or even centuries) to come.
  • More extreme weather events are those natural hazards where climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction overlap. Both need to focus on the whole risk management cycle, including measures focussing on prevention, preparedness and recovery.
  • There are synergies between the EU policies on disaster management and climate change adaptation, and both need to be mainstreamed throughout EU policies like water (floods, droughts) or on critical infrastructures.

Impacts and vulnerabilities

Over the past decades, Europe has experienced an increase frequency and severity of weather and climate-related natural hazards such as droughts, forest fires, heat waves and heavy precipitation. Even with the current agreed ambitions to rapidly reducing GHG emissions and to efficiently prevent the climate risk, these trends are projected to continue and to be amplified by socio-economic and environmental changes (e.g. demographic development and land use change) (EEA 2021IPCC 2020; EEA 2017).

 

Policy framework

The EU policy on disaster risk management (DRM) implementation, based on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (CPM), fosters cooperation among national civil protection systems, encouraging an exchange of good practices on DRM, including how to cope with the impacts of climate change.

The European Commission (EC) supports the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), enhancing and promoting DRM and its integration in EU policies. In 2016, the EC published an Action Plan, which aims to guide the implementation of the SFDRR in EU policies through a disaster-risk-informed approach to policy making. Moreover, in 2017, the EC published a Communication with key actions to strengthen disaster management in Europe

The 2021 EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change encourages to further leverage synergies between disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation (CCA), with special attention to water related disaster risks and critical infrastructure. The strategy also supports disaster risk financing, unlocking private finance and integrating climate-resilience in the fiscal policy of Member States. 

DRM is present in several EU key policy areas: the Floods Directive,  the Action on Water Scarcity and Drought (see the Water Management policy page),  and the proposal for a directive on European critical infrastructures.

 

Improving the knowledge base

Projected changes in climate extremes as a function of global warming (1.5 versus 2°C) and their implication for DRM have been considered in the IPCC special report on global warming of 1.5 °C. Extremes and abrupt or irreversible changes in the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate have been assessed in the Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, to identify sustainable and resilient risk management strategies. Risk management and decision making in relation to sustainable development have been considered in the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land.

In 2015, the EC 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 with an online repository of disaster related research and access to a range of networks and partnerships. The Joint Research Center (JRC) manages the DRMKC and, since 2017, the GIS web-platform Risk Data Hub. The Hub aims to improve the access and share EU-wide curated risk data for fostering DRM. As a knowledge hub, the Risk Data Hub is expected to be the point of reference for curated EU-wide risk data, either through hosting relevant datasets or through linking to national platforms and to the JRC reports on science for DRM (2017 and 2020 reports).

The EC encourages the production of better information and comparability of disaster data, such as information on the economic loss of disasters. In this context, a report published in 2018 by the JRC provides an analysis of several databases developed to collect, record and aggregate information regarding different hazards losses, and thus to improve comparability of a vast variety of events triggered by any kind of hazard. Moreover, the series of PESETA projects of the JRC provides an overview of the possible biophysical and economic consequences of future climate change for Europe.

The Copernicus Emergency Management Service (CEMS) provides information on several climate-related hazards, including floods, droughts and wildfires, for emergency response and disaster risk management.

In recent years, efforts have been made to enhance the coherence between the CCA and DRR research, policy and practices. Within the H2020 PLACARD project, a platform was developed for dialogue, knowledge exchange and collaboration between the two different communities. Furthermore, EEA published a report assessing DRR and CCA current practices and level of know-how.

The EEA updates every year an indicator on economic losses from climate-related extremes. European projects such as LODE focused on the development of damage and loss data information systems for DRR and CCA. Also the World Bank Group made studies for the European Union on Economics for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness in Europe (2021). The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority developed a pilot dashboard addressing the natural catastrophe protection gap.

 

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 2021-2027, which ensures that climate adaptation actions have been integrated into all the major EU spending programmes.

The EU Solidarity Fund was set up for funding Member States in case of major disasters. It was created in response to a massive flood event in central and Eastern Europe in 2002, and support in disaster relief, restoration of public infrastructures, and protection of cultural heritage.

The research on disaster risk reduction is being funded through EU’s Research and Innovation Framework Programmes, in particular, from 2021 to 2027 by Horizon Europe, which includes climate change adaptation as a mission area, aiming at assisting European communities and regions in better understanding, preparing for and managing climate risks. Cluster 3- Civil security for society aims to respond to challenges arising from natural and man-made hazards and is therefore particularly relevant for the DRR sector.

Moreover, every year the EU Civil Protection Mechanism opens a call for financing projects on prevention and preparedness. Strengthening DRM is also within the goals of the LIFE funding programme.

A comprehensive overview can be found on the EU funding of adaptation measures page.

 

Supporting the implementation

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

Moreover, the European Civil Protection Pool was established to advance European cooperation in civil protection and enable a faster, better-coordinated and more effective European response to man made disasters and natural hazards.

 

MRE of adaptation

In accordance with the European Union CPM Member States have to report every three years to the European Commission (1) a summary of risk assessments, (2) an assessment of risk management capability, as well as (3) information on the priority prevention and preparedness measures. The reporting also includes a focus on climate change adaptation measures: Member States have to include synergies between DRR and CCA measures established at national or subnational level for key risks linked to climate change. On the basis of summaries of national risk assessments submitted at the end of 2018, the EC published the updated EU Overview of Risks.

On the other hand, no systematic mechanism is currently in place for countries to report losses to the European Commission or the EEA.

Highlighted indicators

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