Dealing with disaster risk and climate change adaptation responses

Dealing with disaster risk and climate change adaptation responses


Developing the EU strategy for
adaptation to climate change:

Dealing with disaster risk and climate change adaptation responses


The European Commission planned to adopt an EU strategy for adaptation to climate change in March 2013. In order to justify any policy recommendations proposed under the strategy, an impact assessment (IA) about the economic, social and environmental impacts of the EU Adaptation Strategy was prepared by September/October 2012.

In particular, the economic argument had to be developed for why adaptation action to be proposed under the EU Strategy is required. One key building block for this was the definition of a baseline scenario: What are the climate damages to our economy/societies if we do not adapt? Or, more refined: …if we do not go beyond autonomous adaptation?

One major issue for climate damages are climate-related natural disasters. For the underlying argument to propose adaptation action at the EU level, it is therefore considered to not only build on future climate change projections, but also focus on the history of natural disasters (i.e. damage costs), current risks, and current levels of resilience.

In principle, these arguments had to be built on the basis of existing and (soon) forthcoming research and analysis.

Besides identifying the scope for a solid analysis, we used this meeting to also feed into the development of the European Commission’s strategic approach to filling knowledge gaps related to the economics of climate change impacts and adaptation in the future, to be proposed as part of the EU adaptation strategy.


According to the IPCC (2007), one of the most important consequences of climate change will be the increase in the frequency and magnitude of extreme events such as floods, droughts, windstorms and heatwaves. Climate change may also trigger other hazards in which climate or weather conditions play a fundamental role, such as snow avalanches, landslides and forest fires. The recently published special report by IPCC on ‘Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation’, (SREX) (2011) concerns the interaction of climatic, environmental, and human factors that can lead to impacts and disasters, options for managing the risks posed by impacts and disasters, and the important role that non-climatic factors play in determining impacts. On the latter, the SREX emphasizes that character and severity of impacts from climate extremes depend not only on the extremes themselves but also on exposure and vulnerability.

Over the past decades, the world witnessed a striking increase in the economic losses caused by climate (and non-climate) related natural disasters. It is well established that a rising population and economic growth are key drivers in the trend of observed losses.

Disaster risk management addresses several challenges: First, it reduces the harm caused by natural disasters and increases the ability of societies to respond, recover and develop. Second, it is vital for designing preventive measures to adapt to a changing climate.

However, an effective risk management necessitates accurate knowledge including key uncertainties of what is at stake. The knowledge about the impacts of past disasters as well as current and future disaster risk is all but complete. At best, only direct losses are known and this only for some of the key sectors and/or hazards. Little attention is paid to indirect (knock-on/supply chain) and intangible effects, albeit these together may exceed the direct losses.

As a consequence, actual and potential losses are underestimated and policy responses which are based on such data are insufficient or inadequate to mitigate disaster risks to an acceptable level.

Scope of the workshop

The workshop was organised in the context of the EUAdaptStrat project (Support to the development of the EU Strategy for Adaptation for Climate Change), as one of several stakeholder and expert dialogues that took place in 2012. The events aimed at collecting inputs from practitioners and policymakers on the adaptation strategy and the importance of adaptation on the ground. The insights gained from these dialogues provided input to the European Commission’s activities related to the EU Adaptation Strategy and the accompanying impact assessment.




10:00 - 17:30



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