Building climate resilience based on experiences from the 2021 floods in Western Europe

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Climate change has increased the frequency and intensity of floods across the globe. As recent severe events in Italy, Brazil, Croatia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Malawi, the Philippines, Somalia and Western Australia have shown, floods affect nature and society, leaving communities, cities and entire regions devastated. Jointly produced by United Nations University institutes in Germany (UNU-EHS), Belgium (UNU-CRIS), and the Netherlands (UNU-MERIT), a new report provides five key recommendations for strengthening climate resilience based on lessons from the 2021 floods in Western Europe.

In July 2021, the Rhine-Meuse region experienced catastrophic floods resulting in significant loss of life and billions of Euros in damages. The floods received global attention and highlighted the link between climate change and gaps in the region’s preparedness for extreme events. In response, UNU-EHS, UNU-CRIS and UNU-MERIT launched the “UNU Climate Resilience Initiative” to share knowledge, shape policy and drive proactive adaptation and transformation. As a part of this initiative, researchers organized the two-day Flood Knowledge Summit 2022 in Maastricht, the Netherlands, to bring together various stakeholders to discuss lessons from floods across the globe for to strengthen climate resilience. The summit aimed to address knowledge gaps and governance issues related to climate change risks and adaptation, fostering regional cooperation and multidimensional efforts. Based on the research and outcomes of the summit, the UNU Climate Resilience Initiative identified five key areas for further research and action to address risks and promote climate resilience. These concern the need for better understanding of current and future risks, strengthening emergency response preparedness and coordination, insuring losses, strengthening risk governance and developing transformative recovery pathways from extreme flood events.

Ultimately, the report urges collective efforts, promote multi-stakeholder and regional collaborative actions and drive transformative change.

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Hazards Flood
Country and region Europe
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