Civil protection in a changing risk landscape – European Civil Protection Forum 2018

March 2018, Brussels

The Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) and the PLACARD consortium jointly organised a break-out session which focused on the question of how climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) can be bridged to scale up disaster prevention.

The Forum is the largest recurring public event on European cooperation in the field of civil protection, and is organised every two years by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO).

This was the 6th year of the Forum, and took place in Brussels from 5–6 March, 2018. More than 400 representatives from the civil protection and disaster risk management communities, including governments, European Union institutions, UN agencies, academia, and other stakeholders, came together to share experiences, best practices and discuss the way forward to ensure a stronger collective European response to disasters.

The discussions at the Forum were structured around four axes:

  • Strengthening Europe’s preparedness
  • Simplifying European collective response
  • Scaling up prevention
  • Fostering resilience and cooperation with Europe’s neighbourhood

PLACARD and DG CLIMA co-organised a break-out session on the second day of the forum which explored the question of how climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction can scale up prevention. The session was organised as an interactive panel discussion to also include the views of the session participants.

Elena Višnar Malinovská, Head of the Adaptation Unit of DG CLIMA moderated the session; the following panellists shared their views:

  • André Jol, European Environment Agency
  • Clemens Liehr, Environment Agency Austria
  • Carmel Mifsud, Ministry of Transport, Infrastructure & Capital Projects, Malta
  • Nancy Saich, Climate and Social Office, European Investment Bank
  • Abhilash Panda, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction

The discussion concluded that CCA and DRR share the same goal: increasing resilience across society.

Fostering coherence between these two policy areas means improving the knowledge base, collecting data, and planning more strategically, which together will lead to better outcomes to our work. Communication between both communities on all administrative levels is key and needs to be improved. A cross-sectoral and multi-hazard approach is needed as risks do not always occur within the sector. Climate change adaptation can learn from the disaster risk communities, where communication across sectors is better established.

When financing solutions for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction, it is important to pursue a holistic approach: climate risk and vulnerability assessments are needed, not only of the project that is to be financed, but for the whole system where the project is situated. Moreover, it is important to stop focusing on ‘buildings’ as a solution for adaptation and to consider both hard, soft and green solutions to promote prevention and resilience.

The role of local communities was highlighted as key to promoting the right level of knowledge, information and data collection, and to foster synergies and collaboration. This was also highlighted during a roundtable session with local governments on the first day of the forum, where representatives of local authorities demanded to be more involved in disaster risk reduction initiatives, and that policy, practice and science must be better connected. The role of volunteer organisations as a part of civil society was also emphasised since they play an important role in disaster response, and in prevention activities.

To improve the coherence and integration of CCA and DRR prevention strategies, the following recommendations on what the EU could do were made at the break-out session:

  • Provide opportunities such as funding or programmes for the DRR and CCA communities (possibly at practitioner level) to come together and learn from each other
  • In Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) discussions mitigation finance has to be resilient to changes in the climate, and adaptation finance needs to promote low carbon technology and behaviour. MFF must be risk aware.
  • There needs to be a link between prevention and preparedness. As the EU works on a sustainable finance action plan, we could consider including a disaster prevention and preparedness perspective.

The European Civil Protection 2018 was a great opportunity for PLACARD to directly create links with the DRR community, and to actively debate on how to better connect with the CCA community. The main messages from the Forum are:

  • Climate change forces us to adapt the way we work and to change our systems
  • It is important to consider cross-border and cross-sectoral elements in all prevention and preparedness efforts. Disasters cross borders – therefore we need to look in all directions.
  • We need to address systems as a whole, region to region, city to city, and understand the effects and side effects of climate change. We must invest in the weakest link
  • It is important to strengthen partnerships in order to act on risks together with experts from other countries, researchers and the private sector. The private sector needs to be a stakeholder in any discussions
  • Enhancing the role of communities is critical in risk prevention and investment at the local level. We must ensure that the financial resources invested in climate resilience actually reach communities and people
  • We also need to monitor situations and activities outside Europe, ensuring we include resilience when working with conflict and EU security.
  • When we do things well, we need to understand how and why, find out how to do better and learn from our mistakes.
  • Prevention, prevention, prevention and gather as many allies as you can!

The forum itself and the break-out session in particular, were an ideal opportunity to promote the European Climate Change Conference 2019 in Lisbon. It was also interesting to see that ECCA was well represented in the Forum programme and was mentioned and reflected in many discussions.