The European Union needs to step up prevention actions to reduce the impact of disasters that are amplified by climate change, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Commissioner Christos Stylianides said.
Delivering a keynote speech at the 4th European Climate Change Adaptation Conference in Lisbon on 28 May, Stylianides reminded that climate change causes deaths, displacement and hunger. He noted that climate change also devastates societies, crushing economies and wiping out critical infrastructure. “The message is clear: no country is immune to climate change. No country can deal with the enormity of this challenge alone. So, we must act. Together,” the Commissioner said.
Stylianides said now is the time to adapt to this new reality of climate change, to mitigate the impact, to reduce the risks and to bolster the EU’s resilience.
The EU is taking a long-term approach in this global fight against climate change, he said, adding that the EU’s Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change is focused on three key priorities: Enacting knowledge-based policies, strengthening public and private cooperation and focusing on resilient investments and infrastructure.
“We must refine our knowledge about climate change. This means collecting reliable data on disaster risks. The EU’s Copernicus Earth Observation programme will help us do this. Copernicus is a state of the art satellite system. That improves our climate forecasting and risk analysis,” Stylianides said.
Regarding strengthening public and private cooperation, he noted that climate change affects the whole spectrum of infrastructure and economic activities in both the public and private sectors. “I believe the public-private partnership must be our next big step forward. The public sector alone simply cannot address the enormity of the challenge. We need to better engage with the private sector – their experience, efficiency and innovation to find answers to these complex global problems,” he said.
Turning to resilient investments and infrastructure, the Commissioner noted that risk-informed investments are a smart and sustainable way to safeguard societies from the effects of climate change. “This means new infrastructure must be ‘built right in the first place.’ And after disasters strike, infrastructure must be built back better’’. Risk-proof infrastructure and livelihoods reduce the risks of Dangerous migration, poverty, environmental degradation and uncontrolled urbanization. Resilient infrastructure and livelihoods are critical enablers for the prosperity and growth of vulnerable societies,” Stylianides said.
He reminded that the EU’s Action Plan on Financing Sustainable Growth concentrates on environmental and social aspects of all the EU’s sustainable investments.
He stressed that Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction must be closely connected policy areas and they should be addressed in parallel. “That means building bridges between Disaster Risk Reduction and climate change adaptation. At both policy and operational levels. This will help ensure the security and resilience of our economies and societies,” he said.
In order to address these challenges, the EU has recently taken concrete operational steps via rescEU, a new legislation aimed at strengthening the existing EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Since 2013, the EU also follows a long term Strategy on Adaption to Climate Change. This year’s European Climate Change Adaptation Conference focused for the first time on the synergies between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to bring together the two communities.