Germany floods: Merkel visits area impacted by destruction
Only up to €500million per year is destined to support EU states in the event of a major natural disaster or public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount is seen as a “drop in the ocean” by Belgian centre-right MEP Pascal Arimont who joined some of his colleagues in an urgent call for Brussels to act. In July, major areas of West Germany experienced heavy rain, resulting in unprecedented flooding. The floods damaged critical infrastructure.
The German government established a reconstruction fund of €30billion to cover the damages of the floods which killed 184 people in Western Germany.
Belgium also saw 84 people killed by disastrous floods.
And Greece saw its country ravaged by wildfires in August.
The Greek government authorised a €500million relief package in response.
Echoing Mr Arimont’s comments, socialist Spanish MEP Cristina Maestre said: “We need to face that these aids are not sufficient.”
EU news: The Commission’s aid fund for natural disasters is not enough, say MEPs
And according to Bulgarian MEP Andrey Novakov (EPP), there is a need to adapt the fund in a way that can reach people more quickly – otherwise “nobody will understand what we did here in Brussels”.
For Greece and Belgium, the expenditure is putting extra pressure on their already-strained economies.
EU Commission chief spokesperson Eric Mamer in response to a question from EURACTIV about the economic costs of this year’s climate-related disasters, said: “Member states indeed certainly have to engage funds in order to deal with the consequences of such catastrophes.”
Another spokesperson for the Commission hinted the short-term crisis expenditures could be excluded from the calculation of public debt and deficits.
They said: “Under EU fiscal rules, short-term emergency costs in response to exceptional major natural catastrophes may be classified as one-offs and thus excluded from the calculation of a Member State’s structural fiscal effort when assessing compliance with the Stability and Growth Pact.”
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They pointed out precedents in Italy where “emergency costs related to the earthquakes in Abruzzo and Emilia as well as other natural disasters have been taken into account in the past.”
Under the European Solidarity Fund, the European Commission announced last June €119million in support to France, Greece and Croatia following several natural disasters in 2020.
On the heels of last month’s warning from the UN climate science panel that extreme weather and rising seas are hitting faster than expected, leaders called on Monday for more money and political will to help people adapt to the new reality.
At a dialogue in Rotterdam convened by the Global Center on Adaptation, more than 50 ministers and heads of climate organisations and development banks called for November’s COP26 climate talks to treat adaptation as “urgent”.
In a statement, they said adaptation – which ranges from building higher flood defences to growing more drought-tolerant crops and relocating coastal communities – had not benefited from the same attention, resources or level of action as efforts to cut planet-heating emissions.
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EU news: Merkel established a reconstruction fund of €30billion to cover the damages of the floods
That has left communities worldwide “exposed to a climate emergency unfolding faster than predicted”, they said.
“Adaptation can no longer go under-prioritised,” they added.
“It is imperative for COP26 to launch an acceleration in adaptation efforts to enable the world to keep pace with this most profound and far-reaching emergency.”
They warned that the COP26 summit, to be hosted in Britain, would not succeed unless it made advancing adaptation efforts an equal priority with cutting carbon emissions.
The Rotterdam meeting – attended by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa and International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Kristalina Georgieva – heard from representatives of African nations, small island developing states and other climate-vulnerable countries.
They spoke of how communities are struggling with unusually severe flooding, drought and storms, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, setting back hard-won development gains and uprooting people into city slums or even across national borders as become unable to survive on their land.
“We are now living in the eye of the storm. Adapting the world to our climate emergency is essential for our safety, even as we tackle a global pandemic,” Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, told the opening of the dialogue.
“Millions of lives and the safety of communities around the world are already at stake,” he added.
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