Climate change has cost the EU €145 billion in a decade

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Stefan Ellerbeck, Senior Writer, Formative Content

  • The EU has lost around €145 billion in a decade due to climate change related events, according to Eurostat.
  • And temperatures in Europe have risen faster than any other continent over the past 30 years, World Meteorological Organization says.
  • The EU says its Green Deal initiative will focus on both climate mitigation and adaptation to help the bloc become carbon-neutral by 2050.

If you live in Europe, and think it’s hotter now than when you were younger, you’re right.

Temperatures in the region have increased at more than twice the global average over the past 30 years – higher than any other continent, according to the World Meteorological Organization. It says that between 1991 and 2021, temperatures rose at an average rate of about +0.5°C per decade. Alpine glaciers lost 30 metres in ice thickness from 1997 to 2021.

Counting the cost of climate change

This news comes as data is released on the economic damage caused by climate-related events in the bloc’s 27 member countries. Heatwaves, floods and storms are estimated to have caused €145 billion in economic losses in the EU in the last decade, according to Eurostat.

The 30-year moving average of climate-related economic losses has increased by almost 2% a year over the same time period, the European Commission’s statistical office says. This shows a clear trend as outlined in the estimates from the European Environmental Agency (EEA) shown below.

Figure showing the climate change related economic losses by type of event

Climate change related economic losses in the EU increased by almost 2% per year 2010-2020. Image: Eurostat/EEA

The highest total losses between 2010 and 2020 were in 2017, amounting to almost €27.9 billion. The European Commission says this because of severe heat waves that caused wildfires that year.

In 2020, Greece recorded the highest climate-related losses of any country in the bloc at €91 per inhabitant. This was more than three times higher than the EU average of €27. The lowest losses during this period were registered in Bulgaria at €0.70 per inhabitant.

Figure showing the climate change related economic losses

Greece suffered the worst economic losses of the EU countries in 2020 as a result of climate change related events. Image: Eurostat/EEA

EEA data released at the beginning of 2022 estimated that between 1980 and 2020 economic losses caused by climate-related extreme events totalled €487 billion.

Germany lost almost €108 billion, France nearly €99 billion and Italy just over €90 billion. The EEA says weather and climate-related extremes made up around 80% of the total economic losses caused by ‘natural hazards’ in the 27-member bloc.

Building a green future

The EU plans to become the world’s first carbon-neutral bloc by 2050. Its Green Deal pledges a spend of one trillion euros in ‘sustainable investments’ by 2030 as well as a series of actions for sectors including construction, biodiversity, energy, transport and food production.

Its adaptation strategy also sets out a “long-term vision for the EU to become a climate-resilient society, fully adapted to the unavoidable impacts of climate change by 2050”. It has four main objectives: to make adaptation smarter, faster, more systematic and to support international action for climate resilience.

The EU says its Emissions Trading System is the cornerstone of its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Originally set up in 2005 it is the world’s first major carbon market and remains the biggest

Greenhouse gas emissions in the bloc fell by 32% between 1990 and 2020. Eurostat says this trend is largely to do with improvements in energy efficiency and more use of renewable power.

Charts showing the greenhouse gas emissions by country, absolute change from 1990-2020

Emissions fell by over 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent over three decades. Image: Eurostat/EEA


How is the World Economic Forum fighting the climate crisis?

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Nature and Climate accelerates action on climate change and environmental sustainability, food systems, the circular economy and value chains, and the future of international development.

  • Through the Global Plastic Action Partnership, the Forum is bringing together government, business and civil society to shape a more sustainable world by eradicating plastic pollution.
  • Global companies are collaborating through the Forum’s initiative to support 1 trillion trees by 2030, with over 30 companies having already committed to conserve, restore and grow more than 3.6 billion trees in over 60 countries.
  • Through a partnership with the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and over 50 global businesses, the Forum is encouraging companies to join the First Movers Coalition and invest in innovative green technologies to enable net-zero emissions by 2050.
  • The Forum is bringing global leaders together to reduce the environmental impact of value chains and make the $4.5 trillion circular economy opportunity a reality. The African Circular Economy Alliance is funding circular economy entrepreneurs and circular economy activities in Rwanda, Nigeria and South Africa, while the Circular Electronics in China project is helping companies reduce and recycle 50% of e-waste by 2025.
  • Since launching in 2020, the Forum’s open innovation platform UpLink has welcomed over 40,000 users who are working on more than 30 challenges crowdsourcing solutions to the climate crisis.
  • More than 1000 partners from the private sector, government and civil society are working together through the 2030 Water Resources Group to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030. The group has facilitated close to $1 billion of financing for water-related programmes.

Contact us for more information on how to get involved.

Climate change will harm global economic growth

The global economy could lose up to 18% of GDP by 2050 if no action is taken to mitigate the impacts of climate change, the Swiss Re Institute warns. The insurer estimates this figure will drop to between 11 and 14% if some action is taken, and could be as low as 4% if the 2015 Paris Agreement targets are met.

Europe currently stands to lose around 11% of its GDP and the US almost 10%, the company’s 2021 report suggests. However, Asian economies would be hardest hit, with China at risk of losing almost 24% of its GDP under the most severe scenario.

“Our analysis shows the benefit of investing in a net-zero economy”, said Jérôme Haegeli, Swiss Re’s Group Chief Economist. “For example, adding just 10% to the $6.3 trillion of annual global infrastructure investments would limit the average temperature increase to below 2°C. This is just a fraction of the loss in global GDP that we face if we don’t take appropriate action.”

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