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In the Scheldt estuary, effective sea- level rise is up to 15 mm per year since 1930. This is a much higher rate than sea-level rise at the coast

In a warmer future climate, Western Europe will see larger impacts from severe Autumn storms. Not only their frequency will increase, but also their intensity and the area they affect.

How much sea level rise is to be expected at the upper limit of current IPCC scenarios? This question has been dealt with for northern Europe

The 10-year design storm intensity for urban drainage systems in Belgium can increase up to about 50% by the end of this century. Or, systems currently designed for a 20-year return period of flooding

Severe hurricane-force (> 32.6 m/s) storms can cause floods in west-European coastal regions and inflict large-scale damage on infrastructure and agriculture.

At extremely low water levels, the price per tonne for inland waterway transport in the river Rhine area will almost double. These increased transport prices result in welfare losses.

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I recommend

National plans/strategies for Belgium

  • Belgium's Sixth National Communication Climate Change under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2014). Download.
  • Belgian National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. Download.

Reports/papers that focus on important Belgian topics

  • Agriculture: Gabriëls ( 2005). Expected climate change, consequences for agriculture in Flanders (text in Dutch). Download.
  • Biodiversity: Van Ypersele and Marbaix (2004). Impact of climate change in Belgium (text in Dutch). Download.
  • Flood risk: d’Ieteren et al. (2003). Les effets du changement climatique en Belgique: Impacts potentiels sur les bassins hydrographiques et la côte maritime. Download.

Reports/papers that present a sound overview for Europe

  • Quante, M. and F. Colijn (eds), 2016. North Sea Region climate change assessment NOSCCA. Regional Climate Studies, Springer Nature, 555 pp. Download.
  • Eisenreich (2005). Climate change and the European water dimension. A report to the European water directors.
  • European Environment Agency (2005). Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Europe. Download.
  • European Environment Agency, JRC and WHO (2008). Impact of Europe’s changing climate – 2008 indicator-based assessment. Download.

Reports/papers that focus on specific topics, relevant for all of Europe

  • Agriculture: Rounsevell et al. (2005). Future scenarios of European agricultural land use II. Projecting changes in cropland and grassland. Download.
  • Agriculture: Fischer et al. (2005). Socio-economic and climate change impacts on agriculture: an integrated assessment, 1990–2080. Download.
  • Biodiversity: Thuiller et al. (2005). Climate change threats to plant diversity in Europe. Download.
  • Coastal erosion: Salman et al. (2004). Living with coastal erosion in Europe: sediment and space for sustainability. Download.
  • Droughts: Blenkinsop and Fowler (2007). Changes in European drought characteristics projected by the PRUDENCE regional climate models. Download.
  • Droughts: European Environment Agency (2009). Water resources across Europe – confronting water scarcity and drought. Download.
  • Forestry: Seppälä et al. (2009). Adaptation of forests and people to climate change. A global assessment report. Download.
  • Health: Kosatsky (2005). The 2003 European heat waves. Download.
  • Health: WHO (2008). Protecting health in Europe from climate change. Download.
  • Insurance and Business: Mills et al. (2005). Availability and affordability of insurance under climate change. A growing challenge for the U.S. Download.
  • Security and Crisis management: German Advisory Council on Global Change (2007). World in transition: Climate change as a security risk. Summary for policy-makers. Download.
  • Storms: Gardiner et al. (2010). Destructive storms in European forests: Past and forthcoming impacts. Download.
  • Storms: Pinto et al. (2007). Changing European storm loss potentials under modified climate conditions according to ensemble simulations of the ECHAM5/MPI-OM1 GCM. Download.
  • Tourism: Deutsche Bank Research (2008). Climate change and tourism: Where will the journey lead? Download.

EU funded Research Projects

Agriculture

Aquifers

Climate change scenarios

Climate change impacts and vulnerabilities

Coastal areas

Droughts and water scarcity

Floods

Forest fires

Forestry

Fresh water resources

Health

Infrastructure

Land use

Mitigation / adaptation options and costs

Security and Crisis management

Transport, Infrastructure and Building

Urban areas

Insurance and Business Belgium

Insured losses - Globally

Globally, insured and total property losses are rising faster than premiums, population, or economic growth; inflation adjusted economic losses from catastrophic events rose by 8-fold between the 1960s and 1990s and insured losses by 17-fold. Large catastrophic events cause less damage in an average year than the aggregated impacts of relatively small events (a 40/60 ratio globally) (7).


In the United States, averaged over the past 55 years, weather-related events have been responsible for 93% of all catastrophe events, 83% of the economic damages of natural disasters, and 87% of the insured losses. ... The observed upward trend in losses is consistent with what would be expected under climate change and with demographic factors (7).

Flood risk insurance in Europe

Insurance can be considered an adaptation strategy since it reduces the follow-on economic impacts of extreme events and thus stabilizes the income and consumption stream of the affected, and thus clearly reduces vulnerability and impacts (15).

Different insurance and compensation systems

Insurance and compensation systems for flood risk in Europe have been divided into three categories (9):

  1. Traditional (private) insurance systems. This system is in place in most European countries (in 15 out of 19 studied countries). Systems are set up and managed by private companies, where the cover is financed from premiums that are paid before the event (ex ante). Some of these systems may have support from the government, for instance through state-guaranteed reinsurance. Countries where at least half the population has taken out flood insurance are: Portugal, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Hungary, Norway and Sweden. Countries where less than half of the population has taken out flood insurance are: Italy, Greece, Austria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic Germany, Poland, Finland;
  2. Insurance or pooling systems in which the government has a considerable role, through setting up and managing the pool. Cover is provided through ex ante premiums or ex ante taxes on insurance policies. This is the case in Belgium, Denmark and Switzerland. In Belgium, however, a compulsory insurance system has been put in place since late 2005;
  3. Systems administered by the government, consisting of ex post compensation of flood losses. These systems are not considered to be insurance, as the basic property of ex ante premium or tax collection is not present. Rather, loss compensation is paid from tax money, either ad hoc or through budget reservations. Out of 19 studied European countries this system is only in place in the Netherlands.

Insurance markets are rather imperfect and are unlikely to generate adequate adaptation responses to climate risk due to uncertainty and imperfect information, missing and misaligned markets and financial constraints. Government support is therefore necessary and widespread in the EU and elsewhere. Governments of EU member states regulate, subsidize or even offer insurance for flood or drought risks; yet, in many instances markets and public-private partnership offer only limited coverage or are extremely restricted, such as for flood risk in the Netherlands, which leads to substantial government liabilities for member states, which to some extent are buffered by the EU solidarity fund government compensation scheme (10).

The table below summarizes the key properties of insurance and compensation systems for covering losses incurred by households and business in a selection of EU member states (11). Private insurance systems (“bundle system” or the “option system”) are distinguished from government solutions (ex post compensation by the government, paid from tax revenues). The fifth column indicates whether private insurance is compulsory. Finally, the level of market penetration of the insurance system has been estimated.

Member state Insurance/compensation system Insurance compulsory Market penetration
  Private, ex ante, premium bundled Private, ex ante, premium optional Government, ex post compensation    
Austria   X     10-25%
Belgium X     X >75%
Czech Republic   X     25-75%
Finland   X X   10-25%
France X     X >75%
Germany   X X   10-25%
Greece X   X   <10%
Hungary X   X   40-60%
Italy   X     <10%
Netherlands   X X   <5%
Poland   X X   25-75%
Portugal X       25-75%
Spain X   X X 25-75%
Sweden X   X   >75%
UK X       >75%

EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF)

Recognising that floods and other disasters may lead to overburdening national governments and necessitate international assistance even in Europe, the EU Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was created after the floods in central Europe in summer 2002 and entered into force on November 15th of that year (12,16). Member states, and countries applying for accession, can request aid in the event of a major natural or technological disaster (13). The fund provides financial aid for emergency measures in the event of a natural disaster causing direct damages above 3 billion Euros (at 2002 prices) or 0.6% of the GNI (14). Fund support can be mobilized even if the threshold is not met, e.g. for a neighbouring country that is affected by the same major natural disaster or for extraordinary regional disasters which affect the majority of the population of a region and have serious effects on its economic stability and living conditions. There is no equivalent to addressing drought and water scarcity, however (10).

The current EU extreme event interventions are not sufficient to cope with future extreme events projected to increase in size and intensity as a result of climate change (10).

Vulnerabilities - Overview

The insurability of natural disasters and extreme weather events may be affected by increases in the frequency, severity, or unpredictability of these events. ... Climate change presents various challenges to insurability. These include technical and market-based risks (7):


Technical Risks

  • Shortening times between loss events, such as more hurricanes per season,
  • Changing absolute and relative variability of losses,
  • Changing structure of types of events,
  • Shifting spatial distribution of events,
  • Damages that increase exponentially or nonlinearly with weather intensity,
  • Widespread geographical simultaneity of losses (e.g. from tidal surges arising from a broad die-off of protective coral reefs or disease outbreaks on multiple continents),
  • Increased difficulty in anticipating "hot spots" (geographic and demographic) for particular hazards,
  • More single events with multiple, correlated consequences. This was well evidenced in the pan-European heat catastrophe of 2003. Immediate or delayed impacts included extensive human morbidity and mortality, wildfire, massive crop losses, and the curtailment of electric power plants due to the temperature or lack of cooling water, and
  • More hybrid events with multiple consequences (e.g. El Nino-related rain, ice storms, floods, mudslides, droughts, and wildfires).

Market-based Risks

  • Historically-based premiums that lag behind actual losses,
  • Failing to foresee and keep up with changing customer needs arising from the consequences of climate change,
  • Unanticipated changes in patterns of claims, and associated difficulty in adjusting pricing and reserve practices to maintain profitability,
  • Responses of insurance regulators,
  • Reputation risks falling on insurers who do not, in the eyes of consumers, do enough to prevent losses arising from climate change, and
  • Stresses unrelated to weather but conspiring with climate change impacts to amplify the net adverse impact. These include draw-downs of capital and surplus due to earthquakes or terrorist attacks and increased competition from self-insurance or other competing methods of risk-spreading.

Pressure on insurance affordability & availability under climate change

Extreme weather events have already precipitated contraction of insurance coverage in some markets, and the process can be expected to continue if the losses from such events increase in the future. Impacts vary, of course, depending on the specific circumstances, and can be relatively minor (gradual price increases) to more significant. For the United States, the following outlook has been presented for different types of issues (7):

  • Flood - currently a mix of public/private insurance and risk sharing. Under climate change, insurability problems may extend from the present personal and small commercial lines into larger commercial lines.
  • Windstorm—a largely insured risk at present. There are already considerable insurability problems and associated changes in terms and pricing, non-renewals, market withdrawl, etc. This could increase dramatically under climate change, resulting in shifting of losses to governments and consumers.
  • Agriculture and livestock—currently a public/private insurance partnership. Climate change will stress this sector considerably, with potential for impacts due to drought, flood, pests, or other events on a scale with the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
  • Wildfire—currently largely privately insured. More retention of risk by purchasers of insurance and more involvement by state governments is anticipated, while insurers raise deductibles and reduce limits of liability and scope of coverage.
  • Mold and moisture damage—largely commercially insured until the crisis emerged a few years ago. Now, many states have exclusions.
  • Earth movement and coastal erosion—primarily insured by government, if at all. With permafrost melt, subsidence of dry soils, sinkholes will become more prevalent, as will mudslides and property losses from coastal erosion. Government programs covering storm-surge-driven losses on eroded property could be overwhelmed with losses under climate change, with the result of more retention by property owners.
  • Health impacts—currently largely privately insured. An insurability crisis under climate change is not anticipated. Impacts will manifest in the form of elevated health insurance prices.

Vulnerabilities - Europe

It is estimated that losses from weather events are doubling globally every 12 years. Even though the observed increase in losses is dominated by socio-economic factors (such as population growth, increased number of habitations in vulnerable areas, increased wealth, increased amount and value of vulnerable infrastructure), there is evidence that changing patterns of natural disasters are also drivers (1). It is however not known how much of this increase in losses can be attributed to anthropogenic climate change (2). After accounting for changes in population and wealth, it has been shown that changes in extreme weather events may be responsible for a growth in losses by about 2% a year since the 1970s (6).


In Europe, 64% of all loss events since 1980 are directly attributable to weather and climate events (storms, floods and heat-waves) and 25% to wild fires, cold spells, landslides and avalanches, which are also linked to weather and climate. 95% of the overall losses and 78% of all deaths caused by disastrous events result from such weather and climate-related events. The annual average number of these weather- and climate-related events in Europe increased during the period 1998–2007 by about 65% compared with the 1980s (3).

Swiss Re has estimated that in Europe the costs of a 100-year storm event could double by the 2080s with climate change (to EUR 40 billion compared with EUR 20 billion today), while average storm losses are estimated to increase by 16–68% over the same period (3). Analyses of long-term records of flood losses indicate that societal and economic factors have played an important role in the observed upward trends (4).

According to an estimate by the Reinsurance Association of America (RAA), 50% of insured losses in the world within the last 40 years have been the consequence of natural catastrophes in the 1990s. Insurance experts have warned that large regions of the world may be recategorised as ineligible for insurance, because changes in weather caused by climate change (such as heat waves and hurricanes) continue at an accelerating pace (4).

Climate change is expected to lead to an increase in compensable damage, which will contribute to increased insurance premiums. This means that extreme events will result in an increased level of risk in the insurance sector. Climate change may lead to increased costs and maybe even the bankruptcy of insurance companies (5).

Adaptation strategies - Belgium

At the federal level, new legislative changes deal with flooding and other natural hazards in the form of an obligatory annex to housing fire insurance policies (8). The insurance cover against natural disasters will not be provided by state funds, except when the global cost exceeds a threshold linked to the turnover of the insurance companies. While the new legislation is not primarily targeting adaptation to climate change, it may have a dissuasive effect on residential construction in areas where the risk of flooding is higher, in particular if this results in higher insurance premiums.

In addition, there is a mechanism (price setting board) to limit the premiums for existing constructions in highrisk areas by sharing the cost among all insured parties. There are plans to draw up a map of the high-risk zones in cooperation with the three regions and to exclude any new construction mechanism, making such constructions probably uninsurable (8).

References

The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Belgium.

  1. UNEP FI (2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  2. Höppe et al.(2006), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  3. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  4. Pielke Jr and Downton (2000); Mills (2005); Barredo (2007), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  5. Marttila et al. (2005)
  6. Muir-Wood et al. (2006), in: Ward et al. (2008)
  7. Mills et al. (2005)
  8. Assuralia (2005), in: National Climate Commission Belgium (2010)
  9. Bouwer et al. (2007)
  10. Aakre et al. (2010)
  11. Bouwer et al. (2007); CEA (2009); Swiss Re (1998); ISDR (2005); OECD (2005); Paklina (2003), in: Aakre et al. (2010)
  12. EUFR (2004), in: Aakre et al. (2010)
  13. EUFR (2002), in: Aakre et al. (2010)
  14. Council Regulation (2002), in: Aakre et al. (2010)
  15. Linnerooth-Bayer and Mechler (2007), in: Aakre et al. (2010)
  16. Hochrainer et al. (2010)
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