Fire response readiness in Europe needs improvement as climate disasters cost €77 billion

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Europe faces escalating costs from climate disasters

Climate-related disasters cost Europe more than €77 billion last year, according to a new report.

As reported by Euractiv, the World Bank and the European Commission highlighted the urgency of enhancing data and financing strategies to mitigate these costs.

The reports reveal that the European Union could lose seven per cent of its GDP to climate change impacts by the 2030s.

2023 was the hottest year in Europe on record, with weather events linked to climate change causing significant financial damage.

Despite substantial efforts by European countries to prepare for these impacts, the reports suggest more action is needed, particularly in critical sectors such as emergency response services.

Vulnerabilities in fire response highlighted

The report points out that in half of EU member states, fire stations are located in areas facing multiple natural disaster hazards.

Zuzana Stanton-Geddes, a senior disaster response management specialist with the World Bank, noted the effects of such vulnerabilities: “During the 2023 wildfires in Greece, patients had to be evacuated from Alexandroupolis General Hospital because of where it was located, and during Germany’s 2021 floods, fire stations became inactive because they were in the flood zone.”

Critical infrastructure such as fire and police stations, hospitals, schools, roads, and power lines are often situated in areas vulnerable to floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and landslides.

Stanton-Geddes emphasised the importance of preparing for disasters to boost resilience to climate shocks.

Investment in climate adaptation

At the European level, the EU Adaptation Strategy, the EU Floods Directive, and aspects of the European Green Deal focus on adaptation.

Best practices from national governments include Portugal’s comprehensive wildfire prevention and preparedness strategies, the Netherlands’ flood risk management measures, and Italy’s multi-functional upgrading of buildings for seismic safety and energy efficiency.

Stanton-Geddes highlighted the actions of various European cities in developing local climate adaptation plans and initiatives.

Cities like Vienna and Salzburg are addressing the urban heat island effect through greening, reflective building materials, energy efficiency measures, and sustainable transport investments.

Using data for adaptation financing

A report on financing increased climate adaptation preparedness notes the cost-effectiveness of early investment.

It recommends prioritising financing for risk-exposed areas and vulnerable assets.

The report estimates adaptation costs in the EU could reach between €15 billion and €64 billion annually by the 2030s.

Solene Dengler, a senior climate change adaptation specialist with the World Bank, stated: “Countries need to carry out more and better studies to identify adaptation gaps, costs, and benefits of adaptation measures and track adaptation expenditures and implementation.”

IFSJ comment

The reports by the World Bank and the European Commission underscore the urgent need for Europe to enhance its disaster preparedness and resilience to climate change impacts.

With climate-related disasters costing the continent €77 billion last year, the economic implications are significant.

The findings that critical infrastructure is often located in vulnerable areas highlight a crucial gap in emergency response preparedness.

Investments in adaptation strategies, as seen in Portugal, the Netherlands, and Italy, demonstrate the effectiveness of comprehensive approaches to disaster risk management.

However, the scale of required adaptation finance and the need for better data to inform these investments present substantial challenges.

Early investment in climate adaptation is more cost-effective and can mitigate future losses.

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