EU underprepared as climate change risks mount, draft report says

EU developing first analysis of climate-related risks
calendar icon 21 March 2024
clock icon 2 minute read

Europe is in urgent need of stronger measures to prepare healthcare systems, farming and critical infrastructure for increasingly severe climate change, Reuters reported, citing a draft report by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

As the hotter planet unleashes more heatwaves, drought and flooding, the European Union is developing its first Europe-wide analysis of climate-related risks to try to ensure future EU policies and spending take them into account.

A draft of that analysis, seen by Reuters, revealed the mounting cost of climate change. Economic losses from weather and climate-related extremes in EU countries exceeded 650 billion euros ($708.11 billion) from 1980 to 2022, the report said.Major incidents, included 2021 floods in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, which led to costs of 44 billion euros, and flash floods in Slovenia last year that caused damage estimated at more than 10% of the country's GDP.

The draft, which could still change before its publication, expected next week, urged the EU to integrate climate risk into budgets and policies across the economy - in the short term, and beyond 2050."Failing to account for worst-case scenarios leaves the EU dangerously exposed to the extreme and unexpected impacts of climate change," the draft said.Among the EEA's recommendations are that the EU propose mandatory requirements to protect outdoor workers in agriculture, construction and other industries from extreme heat.

Brussels should also design EU funding instruments to help countries prepare their healthcare systems cope with climate change - which is hitting vulnerable and elderly people particularly hard.Extreme heatwaves in Europe in 2022 caused more then 60,000 deaths, researchers have said.Europe also needs stronger measures to address the increased threat of droughts to agriculture, the draft said - noting that less than 2% of EU farming subsidies are spent on helping farmers manage risks.

The report also warned of mounting risks to critical infrastructure - such as floods damaging roads, extreme heat warping train tracks, and droughts straining power systems.To avoid building new infrastructure that could exacerbate these risks, the EEA said the EU should update standards known as Eurocodes - which guide the structural design of buildings and civil engineering works - to include forward-looking climate data about how these risks will evolve.($1 = 0.9179 euros)

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