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Disaster risk reduction

Image credits: Joanne Francis on Unsplash, 2018

Over the past decades, Europe has experienced an increase frequency and severity of weather- and climate-related natural hazards such as droughts, fires, heat waves and heavy precipitation. Without efforts to reduce disaster risk, adapt to a changing climate and reducing the GHGs emissions (IPCC, 2012, 2014; EEA, 2017) these trends are projected to continue and to be amplified by socio-economic and environmental changes (e.g. demographic development and land use change).

The EU policy on disaster management implementation is based on the Civil Protection Mechanism (CPM). In 2017, the EC has proposed key actions to further strengthen the CPM, including actions on prevention. The EC supports the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), enhancing and promoting disaster risk management (DRM) and its integration in EU policies.

DRM is present in several EU key policy areas: the Floods Directive, the Action on Water Scarcity and Drought, the Adaptation Strategy, the Strategy on Green Infrastructure, and the Directive on European critical infrastructures.

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 European 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.

In 2016, the EC published an Action Plan, which aims to guide the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction in EU policies through a disaster-risk-informed approach to policy making.

Developing a risk management culture

In December 2010, the EC 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.

According to the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism, which main goal is to facilitate cooperation in the event of major emergencies, the key elements of the national multi-hazard risk assessments have to be reported to the European Commission every three years starting from 2015. On the basis of summaries of national risk assessments submitted at the end of 2015, the European Commission published the updated EU Overview of Risks in May 2017.

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, and 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.

In 2017, the European Commission published a Communication with key actions to strengthen disaster management in Europe. Every year the EU Civil Protection Mechanism opens a call for financing projects on prevention and preparedness.

EU actions for post-disaster management and recovery

In 2002, in response to a massive flood event in central and Eastern Europe, the EC 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 EC encourages 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 Joint Research Center (JRC) and the  European Environment Agency (EEA). A report published in 2018 from 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. 

Projected changes in climate extremes as a function of global warming (1.5 versus 2°C) and their implication for Disaster Risk Management 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 (SROCC), to identify sustainable and resilient risk management strategies. Risk management and decision making in relation to sustainable development has been considered in the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL).

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 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 Disaster Risk Management (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 report on science for DRM.

EEA published report on impacts of disasters in 2010 and a report on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Europe in 2017; and in 2018 EEA released a new version of the indicator on economic losses from climate-related extremes. 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).


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.

Regarding this priority action, the European 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.

Highlighted indicators

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