The European Commission yesterday (23 February) adopted a package of proposals to improve knowledge of both natural and man-made disasters and forge common external and internal strategies for tackling risk with Community funding.
The two communications imply that disaster prevention must be integrated into other EU policies, including development policy, and seek areas where EU-level action brings added value to national responses, which are often most suited to dealing with specific local situations.
The proposals do not cover emergencies related to conflicts or acts of terrorism. Nor do they advocate the creation of new instruments, but say the Community approach should “explicitly seek to build on measures that have already been taken at European level”.
The Commission says that EU-level action can give added value to national solutions by building knowledge about disaster prevention, linking all actors involved in disaster management and improving the use of existing policy instruments in prevention activities.
The Communication on the Prevention of Natural and Man-made Disasters says a common response would be effective in areas of action such as establishing a Europe-wide inventory of existing information and best practices, developing guidelines on hazard and risk-mapping, and improving access to early warning systems.
Concerning funding, the EU executive wants to establish an inventory of existing Community instruments that could be used to finance disaster prevention activities and to list the measures for which member states could apply for EU funding. Furthermore, risk prevention should be integrated into Community funding when the next financing perspectives are defined, it says.
Supporting developing countries
The Communication on Disaster Risk Reduction seeks to help vulnerable developing countries to deal with the impacts of natural disasters. As climate change progresses, developing countries will need more efficient measures to cope with the more frequent and intense weather-related disasters (EURACTIV 3/12/08).
The Commission wants to strengthen political dialogue with developing countries and integrate disaster risk reduction into EU development cooperation. It states that the EU currently “lacks a common voice” on this front and, that the links with climate change and adaptation must be made more systematically.
The EU should invest in research to better anticipate and prevent risks, according to the Commission, as well as develop early warning systems. To this end, the EU executive suggests creating regional action plans, including awareness-raising campaigns, beginning with the Caribbean region.
The communication also promotes information exchange, for example by setting up networks between disaster-prone countries and regions.
The Commission foresees that EU financial support will come from “the full range of funding instruments at its disposal”. It states that many member states are scaling up funding for risk prevention in their Official Development Assistance budgets. Nevertheless, the strategy does not make provisions for new financial instruments, but should provide for effective use of existing resources, according to the EU executive.
The financial support given to developing countries in reducing emissions and adapting to climate change will be crucial to reaching a satisfactory deal at international climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December (EURACTIV 29/01/09).
According to Artur Runge-Metzger, the EU’s head negotiator for the UN negotiations, climate change issues will have to be integrated into all kinds of budgetary issues, because money simply cannot be used the way it was in the past if policy is to make a difference in the end.
“There is certainly no easy answer to adaptation. Mitigation is much easier, where you can invest in a clean power plant. With adaptation, I need to figure out whether I need to put my house uphill in order to be safe from floods. That is a very different decision,” Runge-Metzger told EURACTIV. “One costs a lot of money, [while] the other does not necessarily cost a lot of money but needs anticipation and good planning exercises,” he said.