During the past decades, the frequency and economic damage of natural disasters has increased sizeably, both worldwide and in Europe. A number of major disasters have left their marks across Europe, prompting high economic damage and losses, casualties, and social disruption. Examples include the 2010 eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland; earthquakes in Italy in 2009 and 2012; droughts and forest fires in Portugal and Spain in 2012; heavy rainfall that caused record floods in Central Europe in 2013; floods in the UK in the summer of 2007, and the winters 2014/15 and 2015/16; and a hail storm that hit France, Belgium, and Western Germany in 2014, causing approximately €3.5 billion in damages.
Natural disaster risks and losses in Europe are expected to continue rising as a result of the projected expansion of urban and economic activities in disaster-prone areas. In addition, climate change might increase the frequency and severity of certain extreme climate and weather related events, such as droughts, heat waves, and heavy precipitation. These phenomena will continue to unfold as human induced climate change will become more pronounced. Hence, it is imperative to take comprehensive action on disaster risk to improve the resilience of European societies to natural hazards.
Increasing resilience to disasters that are caused by natural hazards is a complex task that involves many actors and often cuts across sectors and geographical scales. Effective disaster risk reduction (DRR) options are complicated because disastrous natural hazard events are often low-probability/high-impact in nature. Such events, including frequent events, can trigger a chain of disastrous natural and man-made hazard events at different spatial and temporal scales, which are often ill-observed and under-reported. The massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in north-eastern Japan in March 2011 exemplifies such chain event. In addition, risks from catastrophic events are highly dynamic, varying in time and space due to changing patterns of exposure and vulnerability. With climate change affecting extremes from hydro-meteorological hazards, such risks will also become dynamic and more difficult to estimate.
The ENHANCE project aimed at developing and analysing novel ways to enhance society’s resilience to catastrophic natural hazard impacts. It analysed and developed new multi-sector partnerships (MSPs) between public and private sectors, with emphasis on the financial sector. MSPs are voluntary but enforceable commitments between partners from different sectors (public authorities, private services/enterprise and civil society), which can be temporary or long-lasting. They are founded on sharing the same goal: reduce risk and increase resilience. The project was carried out by 25 partners from academic institutes, governmental sector, private companies, and international organisations, with emphasis on the financial sector such as insurance.
The ENHANCE project has studied ten case studies on risk reduction, taking place at different geographical and spatial scales in Europe. The case studies are related to heat waves, forest fires, floods, droughts, storm surges, and volcanic eruptions. Based on these case studies the project has assessed current partnerships, and analysed what risk information is needed to enhance risk management.
In order to develop MSPs that can effectively reduce risk, the first step is to widen the risk information basis of stakeholders, through the development of risk assessment models, evaluation tools, a risk catalogue and toolbox, and the provision of an inventory of existing risk scenarios in Europe. Special attention was paid to economic instruments that can complement already existing disaster risk reduction (DRR) measures within MSPs. For example, insurance schemes can be used to compensate losses after a damaging event. However, it can also be used to provide incentives to households to reduce risk, through deductibles and premium setting. In addition, water pricing can be used as an instrument to limit water consumption in drought prone areas, and raise awareness on water scarcity.
Furthermore, ENHANCE has explored the roles of actors and stakeholders, and has systematically examined their successes and failures in increasing resilience to natural hazards and disasters and their associated risks. Accordingly, the project describes indicators for successful and unsuccessful partnerships and recommendations are provided as to how to improve cooperation to better manage risk. Finally, the regulatory policy framework is analysed, from the global level (e.g. the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030) to the local levels, since regulations can steer the development of partnerships and set the financial and administrative boundary conditions for partnerships for developing DRR measures.
The ENHANCE project has been coordinated by Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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