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Climate change: planning for disasters - 18/04/2013

Plane dropping water on forest fire © EU

Strategy would coordinate EU countries’ responses to the impact of global warming on local communities.

The EU is committed to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions. But setting targets to dampen the gradual rise in average global temperatures is not enough.

People's lives, health, livelihoods and personal property are already at risk from the steady increase in extreme weather events. Southern and central Europe are experiencing more heat waves, forest fires and droughts. More flooding and coastal erosion is expected in northern and north-eastern Europe.

Some countries are already taking steps to deal with the effects of global warming. But others have not yet started, for various reasons. That's why the Commission is proposing a more coordinated EU approach.

It makes sense. Lack of preparation in any one country or region can lead to problems elsewhere. And the results of extreme weather – such as flooding, erosion and forest fires – are often shared problems. An EU approach would focus on:

  • helping countries and cities develop plans for adapting to climate change – with funding and other forms of support
  • including appropriate measures into EU programmes for critical economic sectors, such as agriculture and fisheries, and for regional projects. This aim would be to make infrastructure more resilient and encourage individuals, businesses and governments to take out insurance against losses from disasters
  • encouraging research into the potential effects of climate change and expanding the EU's online information network on adaptation (Climate-Adapt).

National plans would promote low-cost local solutions that support economic growth and jobs. The alternative is to do nothing, which could cost the EU economy around €250 billion a year by 2050.

Disaster insurance

In parallel, the Commission is also canvassing opinion on whether EU action is needed to ensure enough insurance coverage is available to cover losses from weather-related disasters. A country's financial stability could be harmed if public money is needed to help communities without adequate insurance recover from a large disaster.

Next steps

The Commission will consider proposing an EU law requiring countries to make plans and implement them if the current voluntary approach does not produce results by 2017.

More about adapting to climate change

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