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Home » “Europe is not prepared for rapidly growing climate risks”, warns EEA

“Europe is not prepared for rapidly growing climate risks”, warns EEA

Apr 11, 2024

According to a recently published assessment by the European Environment Agency (EEA), 2023 marked the warmest year on record, with the average global temperature between February 2023 and January 2024 exceeding pre-industrial levels by 1.5°C. Notably, Europe is experiencing warming at a rate twice as fast as the global average, making it the fastest warming continent. The surge in heatwaves, floods, wildfires and droughts underscores that Europe is facing climatic extreme events that are proving to be more severe than anticipated.

The first ever European Climate Risk Assessment (EUCRA) report identifies 36 climate risks with potentially severe consequences, categorising them into five clusters: ecosystems, food, health, and the economy and finance. Over half (21 out of 36) of the identified climate risks for Europe demand immediate action, with eight being particularly urgent. Urgent measures are required to conserve ecosystems, protect people against heat, protect people and infrastructure from floods and wildfires.

Despite efforts to manage climate risks, the EUCRA report reveals that existing EU-level policies and adaptation actions are not keeping pace with the rapidly growing risks. In many cases, incremental adaptation is deemed insufficient, with urgent action necessary even on risks not yet considered critical.

The assessment highlights significant knowledge gaps and a lack of understanding of major climate risks, posing challenges to effective policy responses. It further underscores the need for a systems-approach to adaptation and resilience-building at both EU and Member State levels, as well as the importance of addressing underlying social drivers of climate change.

Two members of SPARCCLE’s Stakeholder Advisory Board made major contributions to the report. Dr Hans-Martin Füssel (EEA) was greatly involved in the overall coordination and scientific assessment at the EEA. Prof Philip Ward (IVM, VU Amsterdam/Deltares) served as a lead author for Chapter 12 on Large-scale flooding, and was supported by SPARCCLE researcher Dr Luc Feyen from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Additionally, the papers and datasets of several researchers from the SPARCCLE project were cited in the EUCRA report.

As a response to the first EUCRA report, the European Commission published a Communication on managing climate risks in Europe, which identifies four main categories of action: improved governance, better tools for empowering risk owners, harnessing structural policies, and right preconditions for financing climate resilience.

Moving forwards, in consultation with key stakeholders such as the EEA and JRC, SPARCCLE will endeavour to ensure that its methodological development, datasets and findings are well aligned to support similar climate risk assessments for Europe.

About the EUCRA report

The EEA’s EUCRA report builds on and complements the existing knowledge base on climate impacts and risks for Europe, including recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (JRC), as well as outcomes of EU-funded research and development projects and national climate risk assessments. The knowledge in this first-of-its-kind assessment is synthesised with the aim to support strategic policymaking.