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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, forest fires, heat waves and heavy precipitation. Without efforts to rapidly reducing GHG emissions and to efficiently prevent the climate risk (IPCC, 20122014EEA, 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).

Policy framework

The EU policy on disaster management (DRM) implementation is based on the Civil Protection Mechanism (CPM). The European Commission (EC) supports the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), enhancing and promoting disaster risk management (DRM) and its integration in EU policies. 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.

DRM is present in several EU key policy areas: the Floods Directive, the Action on Water Scarcity and Drought, the Strategy on Green Infrastructure, the proposal for a directive on European critical infrastructures and the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change.

In particular, the 2021 Adaptation Strategy, aims to realise the 2050 vision of a climate-resilient Union by making adaptation more systemic and swifter. To achieve this goal, the Strategy encourages to further leverage synergies between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, mainstreaming climate considerations in disaster risk management practices, with special attention to water related disaster risks and critical infrastructure. In order to step international action, the strategy also supports the scaling up of international climate-proofed adaptation finance disaster risk financing, and the unlocking of private finance enhancing climate resilience. The EC will also make sure that climate-related and disaster risk management principles are taken into account by Member States when planning for and promoting future investments, thus increasing policy coherence.

Developing a risk management culture

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 EC every three years.. Moreover, Member States are also called to summarise the relevant aspects of risk management capability assessments, and a description of priority prevention and preparedness measures addressing key risks with cross-border impacts and low probability risks with a high impact. On the basis of summaries of national risk assessments submitted at the end of 2018, the EC published the updated EU Overview of Risks in December 2020. In 2019, the EC developed non-binding Reporting Guidelines on Disaster Risk Management to facilitate Member States in providing such national summaries. In order to provide further scientific support to the MS, the Joint Research Centre of the EC published a series of policy reports with Recommendations for National Risk Assessment for Disaster Risk Management in EU.

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 flooddrought, 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. In this context, the new EU Strategy on Adaptation to climate change aims to integrate climate-resilience in national fiscal policy by further developing the Solidarity Fund into a “build back better” climate and disaster risk transfer instrument at EU level.


Improving the knowledge base

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 have been considered in the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL).

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)

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 reports on science for DRM (2017 and 2020 reports). Finally, 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. 

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

The research on disaster risk reduction is being further funded through EU’s Research and Innovation Framework Programmes, in particular, from 2014 to 2020 in the frame of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme). EU’s upcoming framework programme, Horizon Europe, starting in 2021, includes climate change adaptation as a mission area, aiming at assisting European communities and regions in better understanding, preparing for and managing climate risks.


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.

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