UNISDR welcomes EU strategy on climate change

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Regional Office for Europe & Central Asia
EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard
EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard

GENEVA, 3 May 2013 - UNISDR Chief, Margareta Wahlström, today welcomed the European Union's newly announced strategy on adaptation to climate change and stated: "The adoption of this new strategy is a major incentive for European states to step up their efforts for disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.

Urban resilience is especially important across the region given that 75% of the population live in urban areas which can be exposed to heat waves, flooding or rising sea levels."

According to the EU, the adverse impacts of climate change are increasingly evident today in Europe. It warns that, apart from the loss of lives, livelihoods and material damage, the financial cost of not addressing this phenomenon would be astronomical.

The EU estimates that the minimum cost of not adapting to climate change would reach €100 billion a year by 2020 and €250 billion a year by 2050 for the whole EU. It further indicates that each euro spent on flood protection could save six Euros in damage costs. In Europe, during the period 1980-2011, floods killed more than 2,500 people, affected more than 5.5 million others, and caused direct economic losses of more than €90 billion.

EU Climate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said: "Cutting the world's greenhouse gases must remain our top priority in order to keep warming below 2°C and avert dangerous climate change. But the adverse impacts of the changing climate are increasingly evident today in Europe. Adapting to these changes is one of the most fundamental challenges for territorial development in Europe. Our strategy will help decision-makers in Europe to choose the best solutions to the benefit of their citizens. This will stimulate growth and jobs and prevent potentially high human, economic and environmental costs later on."

The new strategy reflects the irrefutable link between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation outlined in the Hyogo Framework for Action -- generally regarded as the single most effective response to the evidence developed and communicated by UNISDR on the nature of risk and the economic costs associated with it.

The announcement from the EU Directorate-General for Climate Action comes ahead of the Fourth Session of UNISDR's biennial Global Platform for Disaster Reduction, the world's foremost gathering on reducing disaster risk and building the resilience of communities and nations, set to take place on 21-23 May 2013 in Geneva, Switzerland. Some 3,000 people will participate in the event and a major focus will be on the role of the private sector in disaster risk management. A key element of the new EU strategy is to help promote long-term climate resilience in investment and business decisions.

The strategy places strong emphasis on low-cost climate adaptation measures that promote sustainable growth, stimulate climate-resilient investment and create new jobs, particularly in sectors such as construction, water management, insurance, agricultural technologies and ecosystem management. It is hoped that the strategy will enhance coordination between national and international actors engaged in climate risk management.
Europe is warming faster than many other parts of the world, with the European land temperature over the past decade on average 1.3°C higher than in the pre-industrial era, compared with a global average rise of 0.8°C. Impacts vary across the EU depending on climate, geographic and socioeconomic conditions, but all EU member States are exposed to climate change. Some extreme weather events have increased, with southern and central Europe seeing more frequent heat waves, forest fires and droughts. Heavier precipitation and flooding is projected in northern and north-eastern Europe, with an increased risk of coastal flooding and erosion. A rise in such events is likely to increase the magnitude of disasters, leading to significant economic losses, public health problems and deaths.

Only 15 of the 27 EU member countries currently have climate change adaptation strategies. The 12 EU member States that do not have a strategy are being urged by the EU Commission to develop one. Action foreseen in the strategy combined with national planning by governments and national platforms for disaster risk reduction will go a long way towards reducing losses from disaster impacts.

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