Risk prevention is about protecting human lives. This thematic objective incorporates climate change adaptation, a new priority for Structural Fund investments in many Member States.

Understanding the policy context

The EU’s policy framework for Civil Protection addresses prevention, preparedness and response to disasters.

The EU framework for adaptation measures and policies to reduce the vulnerability to the impacts of climate is summarised in the adaptation White Paper of April 2009. The White Paper underlines the importance of addressing climate change impacts in all areas of Cohesion Policy funding. A more comprehensive EU adaptation strategy is to be prepared in 2013.

EU policy and legislation addresses risks in the water sector:

  • The EU Floods Directive (2007/60/EC) requires Member States to assess the risks and to prepare, by 2015, flood risk management plans (these should be integrated with river basin management plans under the Water Framework Directive).
  • The Blueprint to Safeguard Europe’s Waters is expected to launch new initiatives in 2012 including in the areas of water scarcity and drought

Member States are preparing action programmes for climate change adaptation under the UN convention on climate change, and many regional and local governments are developing their own strategies and plans for adaptation.

Developing operational programmes

Member States and regions will need to have in place national and regional risk assessments for disaster management to meet the ex ante conditionality for this thematic objective: these assessments should take into account climate change adaptation, including adaptation strategies.

These risk assessments and strategies will help to identify disaster. They should also highlight the key climate change impacts for health in the region. In many areas, extreme weather and floods are expected to become more common; droughts can threaten safe drinking water supplies; summer heatwaves put vulnerable groups such as the elderly at risk; and rising average temperatures can shift patterns of infectious disease.

Priorities for action will vary greatly across the EU. Potential priorities can include the following:

  • In many regions, further investments may be valuable to strengthen early warning systems for natural disasters, as well as response capacities
  • Health care systems may require investments to handle disasters and also to address changes in health care needs brought about by climate change impacts, such as assisting vulnerable groups cope with heat waves.
  • Investments can help guard against floods, prepare for water scarcity and droughts and reduce the “heat island” effect in urban areas

It will be important for Operational Programmes to consider vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and other groups less able to cope with disaster and change.

Developing Projects

The specific types of investments will depend on the characteristics of the region and the needs of its population. Examples of investments can include:

  • Early warning systems and health care investments for disasters and climate-related events and adaptation
  • Water efficiency in buildings to reduce water scarcity
  • Floodplain restoration and related green infrastructure investments to reduce flooding
  • Green infrastructure specifically for urban areas, including designing parks, green roofs and tree planting to counter the heat island effect and to address flood risks