(Source: European Commission)
“Check against delivery”
The last few years have shown us, in quite dramatic terms, the impact of climate change.
Floods, fires and heatwaves are breaking records every year. Together with earthquakes they are having an unprecedented impact on our lives, our economies, and our ecosystems.
European Cohesion policy is one of the main investors in climate change adaptation.
In 2021-27 programmes, we are planning over 100 billion euros of investments in the green transition. Of this, a significant portion is devoted to adaptation and risk prevention.
We do not yet have investment figures for the new programmes, but in the last programme period, we invested 8 billion euros in 3 key areas.
First we invest in prevention and resilience. This includes disaster-proofing new buildings and retrofitting existing structures to withstand extreme events. But it also includes green infrastructure, such as flood defence systems, and forest management.
Second, we invest in preparedness and disaster management systems, including early warning systems, response vehicles and equipment, training for civil protection units, and preparation of strategies and guidelines.
Third, cohesion policy invests in the long-term recovery and rebuilding of devasted areas, from schools and hospitals, to roads, railways and businesses.
Cohesion policy investments will be carried out in the next few years in the context of recovery from the Covid-19 crisis. And will factor in new challenges and the new, so-to-speak, “environment”.
We are urging our stakeholders to abandon “business as usual”. We cannot afford investments into unsustainable practices. And instead, we need to “build back better” with nature on our side, working in sync.
This approach will favour not just getting economies back on track, but also reducing the future shocks and increasing society’s resilience.
We aim to focus on long-term transitions, factoring in resilience to climate impacts, transformational change in all sectors of the economy. Placing the European Green Deal objectives, as well as well-being of citizens at the center stage.
The focus on the green transition in the next generation of cohesion policy programmes is an opportunity. We can frontload investments, be ahead of the curve, supporting green societal transformation and helping resilience to climate shocks.
This last point, on the climate shocks, in other words, natural disasters, brings me to the cohesion policy response to extreme events, be it weather or other, less predicable ones, such as volcano eruptions or earthquakes.
Through the European Union Solidarity Fund we also contribute to post-disaster relief.
The increased intensity, and impact, of disasters is very concerning.
In 2020, we paid 684 million euros to Croatia, the second highest amount ever paid by the fund following a natural disaster.
And in 2021, Germany reported flood damage of 29.2 billion euros: the biggest total direct damage ever in the history of the Solidarity Fund: that is, EUR 29.2 billion.
And this is just the damage in Germany: Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Luxembourg also suffered considerable damages and submitted their own applications.
As a result, the Solidarity Fund is under severe strain.
I believe that in future we will need more resources, as all evidence is pointing to more intense and frequent natural disasters as we look into the future
Cohesion policy will continue to invest in preparation and preparedness as well as rebuilding. But Member States and regions can also draw on Next Generation programmes to invest in the tools and capacities.
As Europeans, solidarity is one of our key values. Solidarity with those suffering natural disasters, as well as solidarity with those who invest in prevention.
This is our goal and our destination. I look forward today to discussing the map and the means for getting us there.