What can EU countries do to promote coherence between CCA and DRR?

In 2015, the Paris Agreement (PA) and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) set out international agreements on how to act upon climate related extremes. Although designed separately, it is now widely acknowledged that collaboration for more coherence between climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) responsible departments would be beneficial when applying and translating these international agreements into national contexts. The European Union (EU) is encouraging its Member States (MS) to aim for more CCA-DRR coherence for instance via the EU Civil Protection Mechanisms (EC proposal 2017) and the EU Adaptation Strategy (which is now under revision).

Here, we discuss how EU MS are putting this coherence into practice. The analysis relies on publicly available data from EU MS that was collected in the context of the evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy in 2018. This information is especially interesting for policy officers in a leadership role and are wondering how to begin or take the next steps in organising such CCA-DRR coherence. Organising coherence takes leadership from national policymakers, since it is not mandatory through any legislation. This leadership sometimes comes from ministries of domestic affairs in charge of DRR, such as in Bulgaria, Denmark and Croatia. In other countries, such as Austria and Germany, departments of the environment are taking the initiative, often because they are in charge of CCA. In other countries such as Belgium and Ireland, the department of foreign affairs also plays an enabling role.

Comparing the MS’s information makes clear that countries approach organising CCA-DRR coherence at different speeds and in different forms. Some countries have not yet begun the process, and may need guidance or incentives, for example, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Cyprus and Luxembourg. Among the countries that have begun CCA-DRR coherence, the following steps have been taken:

Expressing intentions for more coherence

Many processes begin with an expression of intention for more coherence. Hungary, for instance, expresses the need to assess disaster risks in its National Climate Change Strategy II and adaptation was emphasised in the National Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy. In September 2017, a meeting in Belgium with regional and federal crisis centres, adaptation experts, and climate services scientists, resulted in a declared intention to make use of the cordex.be project for mainstreaming climate change risks in disaster risk prevention and management.

Mutual invitations to working groups, committees and platforms

Several MS followed up by inviting representatives from other departments to their working groups or committees. These mutual contacts play a significant role in coherence. DRR officers are part of CCA working groups and committees in Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain. CCA officers take part in DRR working groups and platforms in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands and Slovakia. In Malta, the CCA department is not yet represented in DRR working groups but has been invited to participate in an extensive consultation process in the context of the national disaster risk assessment exercise.

Formal coherence ambitions

Interdepartmental collaboration is at the formalisation stage in countries that have translated it into concrete measures as part of the national adaptation strategies (NAS) and national adaptation plans (NAP). Austria, for instance, has included several elements of the Strategy for National Crisis and Disaster Protection Management in the Austrian Adaptation Strategy/Adaptation Plan development, review, modification, and implementation of adaptation measures and actions. France has formulated 28 measures in the NAP on natural hazards, which are structured around five main areas:

  • developing knowledge in sensitive areas
  • developing observations
  • generalising vigilance and alert mechanisms
  • integrating climate change impacts on natural hazards into urban management
  • reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience and adaptation to climate change.

The second NAP will also contain a “resilience and prevention” domain.

Estonia has a specific measure (1.2) in the NAP on increasing rescue capacity, which refers to improving risk management, risk communication, institutional capacity and the acquisition of equipment to address climate change-related emergencies. Coherence is also found in Objective 5.1 of the Estonian NAS on health and rescue capability. Croatia has included six measures on DRR in the NAS, three of which are already part of the NAP. Ireland has formulated an objective to climate proof emergency planning for extreme weather events.

Developing joint methods and knowledge exchange

The most practical way to achieve coherence is by developing joint methods and exchanging knowledge. Sweden, for instance, has developed a risk and vulnerability assessment, that includes climate change, to be applied by local authorities for crisis preparedness plans. The Danish Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) assists in ensuring knowledge about climate change and extreme weather events for risk-based design and local plans. The Danish Web portal on adaptation includes information resources on disaster risk management (DRM). France also provides information tools to review natural hazard risks assessment from a climate change perspective. Slovenia has updated risk assessments with information on climate impacts. The Portuguese Joint Working Group on Safety of People and Assets has produced a national risk assessment report and manuals on best practices for flood risk management, and risk prevention and management for resilient cities.

Multi-level and multi-scale CCA-DRR coherence

Few MS are at the stage where they are able to support coherence at the local level. Inspiring experiences are found in France, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland:

  • France guarantees cooperation at a regional level via its Prefects.
  • Denmark has an Emergency Management Agency that supports the consideration and integration of knowledge on climate change and extreme weather events in local planning.
  • Sweden has obliged local authorities to carry out a risk and vulnerability assessment, including climate change risks. National guidance is provided to municipalities.
  • Austria developed a natural hazards and climate change check for municipalities, which serves as a new tool for awareness-raising and prevention at the municipal level.
  • Ireland acknowledges the critical role of local authorities to respond to climate events and is now looking how best to support coordination of CCA and DRR at the local level.

And what is next?

In the past five years, PLACARD fostered dialogues to bridge CCA and DRR. On 28 May 28, we concluded our project in a webinar (co-organised with the OECD) on joint CCA-DRR efforts and collaboration, presenting our PLACARD bonding CCA and DRR report and the OECD report on Common grounds between CCA and DRR. The dialogue during the webinar demostrated that the need to bring CCA and DRR together persists, even after the PLACARD project ends. Questioning the main reason for coherence and integration resulted in a plenary silence, indicating that the dialogue on the benefits for coherence as well as sharing experiences on how coherence can be achieved should be further fostered. So, what can we recommend as the next steps in the coherence of CCA and DRR for EU MS, based on the presented findings?

  • Bring coherence to a practical level through developing multi-hazard plans that consider long-term climate change scenarios. In developing these plans, CCA and DRR can collaborate for joint communication and stakeholder engagement.
  • Merge budgets and financial streams for implementing the plans: bring together financial and man-power resources to jointly invest in implementation of actions and measures in the developed plans and programmes
  • Joint monitoring and reporting: develop and apply a set of indicators or criteria to jointly monitor and report on progress in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Think about evaluation and ways to measure increased resilience and adaptive capacity in a quantitative and qualitative way.

However, the largest bottleneck to coherence is its voluntary nature. A clear incentive is missing, although some MS understand that coherence would contribute to a more effective use of resources when dealing with climate-related extremes. After five years of PLACARD dialogue, we challenge the European Commission to mainstream CCA and DRR coherence in its respective policy instruments, with the aim of increasing national incentives to further progress.

When feeling inspired to take leadership in this CCA-DRR coherence process, we suggest you explore the PLACARD bonding report, full of inspiring practices and recommendations for local, subnational, national and European policymakers to support the process of strategic coherence.