Climate hazard damages to critical infrastructures in Europe will escalate as a result of global warming, with an uneven territorial distribution of future impacts and adaptation needs. This calls for (i) an EU commitment to continue supporting adaptation action in Member States (e.g. through Cohesion Policy investments) and to coordinate the exchange of information and best practices; and (ii) further mainstreaming of climate adaptation in a wide range of EU policies and funding instruments, where cross-sectorial consideration of adaptation and climate resilience should be promoted.
One of the three priorities of the EU Adaptation Strategy is to promote better informed decision-making by addressing existing gaps in the knowledge on climate change impacts and adaptation. This report summarises the key findings of the first comprehensive multi-hazard, multi-sector risk assessment of critical infrastructures under climate change, and identifies the most impacted regions in Europe throughout the 21st century.
This study finds that damages from climate extremes to critical infrastructures and key investments in the energy, transport, industrial and social sector, which at present total to €3.4 billion/year, could triple by the 2020s, multiply six-fold by mid-century, and amount to more than 10 times the present damages by the end of the century.
Losses from heat waves, droughts in southern Europe and coastal floods (including the effects of sea level rise) show the most dramatic rise, but the risks of inland flooding, windstorms and forest fires will also increase in Europe, with varying degrees of change across regions. Cold-related impacts will likely disappear in Europe over the coming decades.
Economic losses will be highest for the industry, transport and energy sectors, which are projected to face a 15-fold increase in economic damages. The sharp decrease in the return periods of multiple extreme weather events (e.g., a current 100-year heat wave or 20-year flood that may occur every 1 or 2 years) sends a strong signal to infrastructure business owners and operators that the current design, construction, operation and maintenance standards and practices should be amended in these sectors.
Source: Forzieri, G., Bianchi, A., Marin Herrera, M.A., Batista e Silva, F., Lavalle, C. and Feyen, L. (2016): Resilience of large investments and critical infrastructures in Europe to climate change. JRC Joint Research Centre of the European Commission: EUR27906; doi:10.2788/232049