Europe strongly impacted by extreme weather, says new Climate Risk Index

In Germany, it is mainly the dry summers of recent years that have led to high losses. [EPA-EFE | Friedemann Vogel]

The Berlin-based think tank Germanwatch published its Climate Risk Index for this year just in time for the virtual Climate Adaption Summit (CAS2021). The Global South tends to suffer more from extreme weather than the North, but Germany is also been among the 20 most severely affected countries worldwide over the past 20 years. EURACTIV Germany reports.

While CAS2021 (25-26 January) spent two days discussing ways to adapt the global economy and societal life worldwide to climate change, the Climate Risk Index shows where humanity has already failed. The index, from Germanwatch, looks at deaths and property damage caused by extreme weather in the past 20 years (2000-2019).

In 2019, Mozambique and Zimbabwe topped the negative ranking. Both were hit hard by Cyclone Idai, the most devastating cyclone ever observed in the western Indian Ocean to date. Together with Malawi, the three East African countries recorded a total of more than 1,100 fatalities and total losses of more than seven billion USD.

Puerto Rico, Myanmar and Haiti have experienced the greatest weather-related losses over the past 20 years, according to the long-term index. Germany also appears surprisingly high on this list. With more than 10,700 fatalities, for example as a result of heat waves, and economic losses of around €3.5 billion per year, Germany ranks 18th in the world.

People in developing countries particularly affected

In total, more than 475,000 people died as a direct consequence of over 11,000 extreme weather events between 2000 and 2019. The economic damage amounted to more than €2 trillion.

According to Germanwatch, the trend that can be seen from the dataset indicates that “people in developing countries in particular have suffered the consequences of extreme weather events.” In 2019, severe cyclones and the subsequent flooding and landslides caused major damage in particular, the report highlights.

This trend coincides with the state of climate science. For every tenth of a degree increase in global average temperature, the number of severe tropical cyclones also increases, the Climate Risk Index says.

Vera Künzel, one of the Index authors from Germanwatch, calls for stronger policies towards climate resilience due to the particularly precarious situation in countries such as Haiti, the Philippines or Pakistan, where people can hardly recover from weather extremes.

“International policy processes must, on the one hand, cause technical and financial support to be provided so that these countries can better adapt to the consequences of the climate crisis. But on the other hand, they must also recognise that this adaptation is only partially possible,” she said.

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Support for those affected

Referring to CAS2021, she added: “Those who talk about climate adaptation should therefore also be prepared to talk about addressing damage and loss that cannot be avoided, and answer the question of how those most affected will be supported to do so.”

The authors of this year’s Climate Risk Index also note that the international climate policy process stagnated in 2020: “In the discussion on the long-term financing target and adequate support for adaptation and damage and loss, demands for progress had to be postponed to 2021 and 2022.”

Without delay, support for affected countries must be identified and provided, the authors urge. In addition, measures for adaptation to climate change must be implemented.

At CAS2021, both US climate envoy John Kerry and China’s Vice Premier Han Zheng, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron announced far-reaching funding for climate adaptation.

Macron pledged a total of €2 billion while Merkel increased Germany’s previous contribution for climate adaptation in developing countries from €50 million to €170 million. A further €100 million is also to flow into a climate adaptation fund for least developed countries.

[Edited by Frédéric Simon]


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