Natural disasters: EU must invest locally today, to save lives tomorrow  
Natural disasters: EU must invest locally today, to save lives tomorrow

The European Union should continue to invest heavily in measures to reduce disaster and climate risk given the ongoing impact of floods, heat waves and earthquakes on local communities across Europe, it was stated at a conference co-organised by the United Nations and the EU's assembly of local and regional politicians ahead of the International Day for Disaster Reduction .

Speaking at the joint event, Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Karl-Heinz Lambertz, President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the EU's assembly for local and regional authorities, and the EU's Commissioner for Regional Policy, Corina Cretu, agreed that climate change is amplifying extreme weather events across the continent, putting pressure on critical infrastructure and systems in Europe that will require continued investment to reduce the risk of disasters.

"Disaster takes many forms but climate change is clearly having a major impact. Weather and climate dominate the risk landscape like never before, accounting for 90% of all major recorded disaster events," said Special Representative Glasser, who heads the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

UN Special Representative Glasser said: "There is good news. Europe has shown that deaths from disasters are preventable. Floods and heatwaves kill fewer Europeans thanks to early warnings and better preparedness. Europe has adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the global plan for reducing disaster losses. We expect that there will be a substantial increase in the number of countries in the region with plans in place at national and local level to reduce disaster losses by the 2020 deadline, and the EU has a great role to play in ensuring that this happens."

He continued: "Like the European Committee of the Regions, we urge cities and regions to develop strategies to reduce disaster risks. We would like local authorities to strengthen their capacity and to receive necessary funding, particularly to improve infrastructure. UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign has today some 600 local governments across the continent participating actively in the campaign, taking essential actions to reduce disaster risk."

President Lambertz, who has led the CoR since July, said: "The European Union is determined to remain a leader on climate action, and should lead efforts to reduce the risk posed by natural hazards, many of which are exacerbated by climate change. The International Day for Disaster Reduction reminds us that the EU still has much to do to reduce the impact of floods, heat waves and earthquakes. By using EU regional funds to tackle climate change and prepare for disasters, the EU's cohesion policy is a true policy of resilience. As we enter into discussions about the EU's budget after 2020, we must continue to have a strong and flexible EU cohesion policy with money ring-fenced to help cities and regions make the shift to a low-carbon economy, make new infrastructure disaster-proof and be able to rebuild quickly after disasters strike."

In Europe, flooding has historically been the biggest natural hazard, and the UN expects the frequency of severe flooding across Europe to double by 2050. Heatwaves have become more common, with one in 2015 costing 3,275 lives in France alone. In Italy, earthquakes have killed an average of 100 lives a year for the past 50 years, with the economic cost estimated at €3 billion at year. Earthquakes also have the potential to trigger tsunamis across the Mediterranean, from Lisbon to Crete.

Commissioner Cretu remarked: "Disasters can hit anywhere, anytime, and completely change our lives in one minute. Since 2005, natural disasters have cost more than €100 billion across our continent. This is why the Disaster Risk Management conference today is crucial. The EU helps its cities be better prepared: cohesion policy alone offers €8bn in this financial period for climate-change adaptation and risk prevention. However, the keyword is experience-sharing, especially in terms of prevention and preparedness. When cities talk to each other, Europe gets safer and stronger."

In 2016, hazard-related disasters affected more than 445 million people globally and preliminary data from EM-DAT, an international disasters database, indicate that another 80 million were affected by 149 disasters in 73 countries in the first quarter of 2017. World Bank figures estimate disasters cost the global economy $520bn (€442bn) per year.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, managed by UNISDR, forms part of the UN's broader development agenda and is reflected in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. The Sendai Framework is voluntary; to date, 3,678 municipalities have signed up to the UNISDR's bottom-up initiative with local governments, Making Cities Resilient . In 2016, the European Committee of the Regions and UNISDR signed a five-year action plan with the aim of increasing the number of European cities and regions taking steps to reduce disaster risks.

 

Notes for editors:

On 11 October, the CoR adopted an opinion, drafted on its own initiative, on " A European policy on the seismic requalification of buildings and infrastructure ". The rapporteur is Vito Santarsiero (IT/PES), a member of Basilicata Regional Council. In March 2017, it sent its recommendations on the " Action Plan on the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 " for consideration by the EU's decision-making bodies. The author of the opinion was Adam Banaszak (PL/ECR), vice-president of the Kujawsko-Pomorskie Regional Parliament.

In May 2017, the president, first vice-president and leaders of the five political groups in CoR went on a fact-finding mission to the Italian regions of Umbria, Lazio, Abruzzo and Marche to see the damage caused by earthquakes. A video report is available.

The United Nations established the International Day for Disaster Reduction – now fixed on 13 October – in 1989, in an effort to promote a global culture of disaster reduction, including disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness.

The United Nations agreed an International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in 1999, creating the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) to serve as the secretariat. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 is the latest update. It has seven global targets – to reduce the deaths, human impact, economic losses, and damage caused by natural hazards, and to increase international cooperation, information and the number of national and local disaster risk-reduction strategies. It has four priorities for action: to understand disaster risk, to strengthen governance, to increase investment in resilience, and to enhance disaster preparedness. As part of its Making Cities Resilient campaign, the UNISDR has established a set of tools intended to catalyse action by municipalities, including policy guidance and risk-assessment tools.

 

Contacts:

Andrew Gardner, European Committee of the Regions, andrew.gardner@cor.europa.eu , +32 473 843 981

Rosalind Cook, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, rosalind.cook@un.org , +32 2 2904 953