Extreme weather events like storms, heatwaves and flooding accounted for economic losses of around half a trillion euros over the past 40 years and led to between 85 000 and 145 000 human fatalities across Europe. Less than one-third of these losses were insured, according to a European Environment Agency (EEA) analysis of economic losses and fatalities from weather and climate-related events, published recently.
Despite existing recommendations from the European Commission and other international organisations, there is currently no mechanism in place in most EU Member States to collect, assess or report economic losses from weather and climate-related extreme events in a homogeneous way and with sufficient detail to support adaptation policies.
However some private companies collect these data and the European Environmental Agency (EEA) has access to 2 of these private sources with data for 1980-2020: NatCatSERVICE from Munich Re and CATDAT from Risklayer.
According to EEA, around 3% of all such events were responsible for 60% of the “economic losses and fatalities from weather – and climate-related events in Europe”. While it is generally agreed that global economic losses increased over the last half century, (studies of the World Meteorological Organisation), the available data do not show in a clear trend of losses for Europe over the last 4 decades. The assessment covers the period from 1980-2020 and 32 EEA member countries (including all 27 EU Member States, plus Norway, Switzerland, Turkey, Iceland and Liechtenstein).
Adaption crucial for disaster risk reduction, increasing resilience
The aim of the EEA briefing and indicator is to provide more data-based information about the impact of extreme weather events and climate-related hazards like heatwaves, heavy precipitation and droughts and the increased risk they pose to assets and infrastructure and to human health. These events, which are expected to increase due to climate change, are already causing substantial economic losses. Monitoring the impact of such events is important to inform policy makers so that they can improve climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures to minimise damage and loss of human life.
The EU’s adaptation strategy aims to build resilience and ensure that Europe is better prepared to manage the risks and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Closing the climate protection gap by increasing insurance coverage can be one of the key financial risk management tools to increase societies’ ability to recover from disasters, reduce vulnerability and promote resilience. EU Member States are also responding by putting in place national adaptation policies, including national, regional and sectoral climate risk assessments.
Europe is facing economic losses and fatalities from weather and climate extremes every year and in all regions of Europe. The economic impact of these events varies considerably across countries, the EEA assessment found.
For EEA member countries, total economic losses from weather- and climate-related events amounted to between EUR 450 and EUR 520 billion (in 2020 euros), for the 1980-2020 period.
- In absolute terms, the highest economic losses in the period 1980-2020 were registered in Germany followed by France then Italy.
- The highest losses per capita were recorded in Switzerland, Slovenia and France, and the highest losses per area were in Switzerland, Germany and Italy (based on CATDAT data).
- Around 23 % of total losses were insured, although this also varied considerably among countries, from 1 % in Romania and Lithuania to 56 % in Denmark and 55 % in the Netherlands (based on CATDAT data).
The assessment also found that the overwhelming amount of the fatalities — more than 85% in the 40-year period — was due to heatwaves. The heatwave of 2003 caused most fatalities, representing between 50 and 75% of all fatalities from weather and climate-related events over the last four decades, according to the data. Similar heatwaves after 2003 caused a significant lower amount of fatalities, as adaptation measures were taken in different countries and by different actors.