Representatives of the European countries, stakeholder groups and partners will gather for the European Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR) in Rome, Italy, on November 21-23 2018.
Athough heatwaves, drought and wildfires have increased in southern and central Europe, the number of floods and instances of heavy precipitation has grown in northern and north-eastern Europe (Image: Vasilis Ververidis/123rf)
This year's EFDRR will build on the outcomes of the 2017 EFDRR held in Turkey and the 2017 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction held in Mexico. It aims to address key issues that can accelerate the implementation of the Sendai Framework in coherence with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. There will an opportunity to exchange and move forward on local level resilience, economic risks and reaching the Sendai Framework 2020 priority targets.
According to SwissRe, the cost of disasters worldwide in 2017 has reached an average of $306 billion in total economic losses and produced global insured losses that have made it the third-most expensive year to date. This represents a 63 per cent jump from $188 billion in 2016; natural disasters represented about $300 billion of the total, while human-caused disasters another $6 billion.
Europe is highly, and increasingly exposed to disaster risks. The number of wildfires in the EU has more than doubled in 2017, affecting Portugal (where 64 people lost their lives), Italy and Croatia amid high temperatures and lower-than-normal rainfall. Following the heatwave, storms and floods severely affected Italy, Austria, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic and Germany in 2017, leaving a trail of victims and severe damage to critical infrastructure. This year, once again, Europe experienced extreme heatwaves and there were devastating fires in Greece (at least 74 people lost their lives) and Sweden.
The Genoa bridge tragedy that occurred in August, causing the loss of 43 lives, highlights the urgent need to readdress the challenges of infrastructure safety in Europe. Many European countries must deal with aging infrastructure that is in need of renovation interventions, especially given the societal and economic changes that have taken place. Refurbishing and maintenance operations of public infrastructure systems in the face of increased extreme weather, has become crucial for the protection and safety of citizens.
According to the European Environment Agency (EEA), weather and climate-related extremes accounted for 92 per cent of total reported disaster events and around 83 per cent of the total losses in 2016. That same year, earthquakes in central Italy caused direct losses and damages of €23.53 billion, a total that was further number multiplied by underlying indirect losses (see CRJ 12:2). The 2014 flooding in Serbia proved to be one of the most expensive disasters in the country and the damage, which ran up to $2 billion, put the country into recession.
Although heatwaves, droughts and wildfires have increased in southern and central Europe, the number of floods and instances of heavy precipitation has grown in northern and north-eastern Europe. Slow-onset events and longer-term changes in temperature and precipitation may also contribute to increasing disaster risks, with climate change affecting exposure to outbreaks being just one example.
Farmers are seeing increased losses, whether through drought, heatwaves or because warmer temperatures lead to crops sprouting earlier, before the threat of late frosts has subsided (Bernd Brueggemann/123rf)
Even in the case of modest climate change scenarios, economic costs can potentially be high; in the event of more severe scenarios of global warming, costs rise significantly. Estimates of the projected economic impacts of climate change in Europe, however, only consider certain sectors and uncertainty remains high.
According to MunichRe, Europe experienced unusually low temperatures in April 2017 caused billions in damage to European farmers as their crops had already grown robustly in an otherwise warm spring. Depending on the region and particular crop, harvests were up to 50 per cent smaller than usual.
Another apparent paradox is that such events may start to occur more frequently in the future as a result of climate change: plants in certain regions are beginning to sprout earlier in spring, while the threat of frost often does not diminish to the same extent, so that the risk actually increases. Losses caused by the late frost amounted to US$ 3.6bn (€3.3bn), of which only US$ 650m (around €600m) was insured, given the low insurance penetration in the agricultural sector.
The risks related to economic losses and infrastructure damage are rising as a result of the increasing number and value of the assets exposed to hazards, the inadequacy of prevention measures and the growing interconnectedness of markets, societies and technologies in a digitised economy. Protecting investments and reducing economic losses require a number of urgent measures, which are embodied in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 and its global targets, which call for a major commitment to risk sensitive investment, particularly in critical infrastructure; ecosystem management and land-use planning; and for the development and design of partnerships to build resilience, especially with the private sector.
Storms bring flooding and the danger of damage to infrastructure (Massimiliano Clari/123rf)
All this considered, Europe has the potential of becoming a protagonist and a reference model for best practice in the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, alongside with the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. But a bold and determined change of gear is required, and several underlying conditions have to be realised.
Regional platforms for disaster risk reduction
The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 recognises the Global and Regional Platforms for Disaster Risk Reduction, referred to in Europe as the European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR), as key mediums for its implementation, building on the pivotal role that they have played in supporting the implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action.
The Global and Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, as recognised by the UN General Assembly, is the main forum at the global and regional level for strategic advice, co-ordination, partnership development and the review of progress in the implementation of international agreements on disaster risk reduction.
European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR)
The European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR) forms the regional platform structure of Europe. This biennial event has established itself as an important vehicle to address regional challenges, providing an opportunity to address such issues through cross-border leadership and solutions.
The EFDRR also serves as a forum for other stakeholders to take a shared responsibility and make actionable commitments to reduce disaster risk. The conference, true to the multi-stakeholder spirit of the Sendai Framework, enables governments and stakeholders to exchange experiences on successful practices and innovative approaches to prevent, reduce and manage disaster risk.
While taking stock of the 2015-2020 European Roadmap for the implementation of the Sendai Framework, this year’s ‘open’ forum will address some of the following topics:
- Engaging the market: Making the economic case for DRR and sustainable financing;
- Promoting coherence: Using national DRR strategies for the coherent implementation of the 2030 development agendas (Sendai Framework, Sustainable Development Goals, New Urban Agenda and the Paris Agreement);
- Adressing the Grey Rhino (ie recognising and acting on obvious risks) and the Black Swan (unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence): From risk assessments and understanding and communicating risk;
- Every life counts: inclusive and equality based strategies;
- Reducing risk to cultural heritage;
- Understanding local challenges and opportunities; and
- Innovation and science: Looking at the technology needs for effective DRR.
The EFDRR 2018 is expected to host participants from European countries, Ministers, Sendai Framework focal point, intergovernmental organisations, United Nations and international organisations, and stakeholder groups including: National Societies of Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations; children and youth; civil society and community practitioners; women; parliamentarians; local authorities; science, technology and academia; the private sector; the media; and disability.
All participants are required to register through the EFDRR 2018 website and conference registration is now open.