“Europe is not prepared for rapidly increasing climate risks,” its report points out European Environment Agency (EEA)which is published today.

“Europe is the fastest warming continent in the world and climate risks threaten its energy and food security, ecosystems, infrastructure, water resources, financial stability and human health.” This is the conclusion of the European Environment Agency’s (EEA) first assessment of climate risks in Europe, stressing that many of these risks have already reached critical levels and could be catastrophic without urgent and decisive action.

The EEA assessment comes on the eve of the publication of the European Commission’s report on the management of the risks of climate change, which will be presented tomorrow in Strasbourg by the Commissioner for the European Green Deal, Maros Šefković and the Commissioner for Climate Change, Bopke Hoekstra. “The European Environment Agency’s warning is clear and tomorrow the Commission will present a policy response,” said Commission spokesman Tim McPhee.

“The extreme heat, drought, wildfires and floods that have taken place in recent years in Europe will worsen and affect living conditions across the continent, even under optimistic global warming scenarios,” the EEA stresses. According to the European Organization, some regions of Europe are hotspots for multiple climate risks. Southern Europe is particularly at risk from fires and the effects of extreme heat and water scarcity on agricultural production, outdoor work and human health. Flooding, erosion and salt water intrusion threaten Europe’s low-lying coastal areas, including many densely populated cities.

The assessment identifies 36 major climate risks for Europe in five areas: ecosystems, food, health, infrastructure, economy and finance. More than half of the major climate risks identified in the report require immediate further action and eight of them are particularly urgent, mainly to preserve ecosystems, protect people from heat waves, protect people and infrastructure from floods and fires as well as to ensure the sustainability of European solidarity mechanisms such as the EU Solidarity Fund.

According to the EEA, Europe’s economy and financial system face many climate risks. For example, extreme weather events can increase insurance premiums, threaten assets and mortgages, and increase government spending and borrowing costs. “The sustainability of the EU Solidarity Fund is already under serious threat due to the costly floods and forest fires of recent years. Worsening climate impacts may also widen the gap in private insurance and make low-income households more vulnerable,” the report stresses.

The Executive Director of the EEA, Leena Yla Mononen said: “Our new analysis shows that Europe is facing urgent climate risks that are growing faster than its societal preparedness. To ensure the resilience of our societies, policy-makers at European and national level must act now to limit climate risks, both through immediate emissions reductions and strong adaptation policies and actions.”

The EEA underlines the need for closer cooperation between EU member states in understanding the climate risks they face and preparing to manage them. “National climate risk assessments are increasingly used to inform the development of adaptation policy. However, societal preparedness is insufficient, as policy implementation lags behind the rapid increase in risk levels,” the report points out.

In conclusion, the EEA report highlights that the EU can play a key role by improving understanding of climate risks, increasing risk-taking and contributing to how they are addressed through legislation, appropriate governance structures, monitoring, funding and technical support.