Where climate change and disaster risk reduction joined hands

The Civil Protection Forum 2018

From 5–6 March, the biennial Civil Protection Forum took place in Brussels to explore the role of civil protection in a changing risk landscape. More than 400 participants gathered at the European Commission to discuss policy questions, to exchange new ideas and to facilitate networking, mutual learning and cooperation.

As PLACARD co-organised a break-out session with DG CLIMA, I had the opportunity to participate in the Forum in Brussels. The first morning focused on the local level, featuring a Roundtable with Local Governments – speakers representing local authorities underlined the need to remember the people and communities at the frontline when a disaster hits. Our work is not just about policies for stakeholders at the European or national level, it is essential that we support local communities as well – they are responsible for organising the majority of prevention, preparedness, response and rehabilitation activities. This session was a fitting reminder that we must take into account who the ultimate beneficiaries are.

Between the roundtable discussion and following break-out sessions, Inspiring Stories speakers from emergency services talked about what it is really like to be in the middle of mayhem. Fernando Adrados Morán, a pilot with the Spanish Air Force, was truly impressive – his main role is to put out wildfires from the air. He told us about the challenges he and his colleagues have to overcome, and how dangerous their work is.

The break-out sessions focused on topics ranging from forest fire preparedness, transnational cooperation, and climate resilience to cultural heritage protection, health emergencies and of course climate change adaptation. Our session, Bridging climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction to scale up prevention was jointly organised with DG CLIMA on the second day of the Forum. Located in the impressive Alcide de Gasperi room, the European Commission´s largest meeting room, myself and a group of panellists provided inputs and answers to the questions of Elena Višnar Malinovská, Head of the Adaptation Unit at DG CLIMA and moderator of the discussion. When introducing to the topic, Elena asked the participants to raise their hands if they thought that improved collaboration between CCA and DRR would be beneficial; almost all of them did. I took that as a sign that the DRR community is open to the ideas of the CCA community, and ready for more.

Summarising what I heard in the presentations, statements and the many informal discussions I had, climate change adaptation is recognised in the DRR community as more of an issue than I expected. I see this as a promising sign, and that ECCA 2019 in Lisbon will successfully draw in many participants from DRR to join forces with CCA.