Economic losses from climate-related extremes in Europe

Between 1980 and 2019, climate-related extremes caused economic losses totalling an estimated EUR 446 billion in the EEA member countries. Although analysing trends in economic losses is difficult, partly as a result of high variability from year to year, climate-related extremes are becoming more common and, without mitigating action, could result in even greater losses in the coming years. The EU adaptation strategy aims to build resilience and ensure that Europe is well prepared to manage the risks and adapt to the impacts of climate change, thus minimising economic losses and other harms.

Published: ‒ 25min read

Figure 1. Economic damage caused by weather and climate-related extreme events in Europe (1980-2019)
TypeYearValueChart
Meteorological events1980121EEA-32
Meteorological events19812254EEA-32
Meteorological events19822292EEA-32
Meteorological events1983900EEA-32
Meteorological events19843948EEA-32
Meteorological events1985618EEA-32
Meteorological events19862571EEA-32
Meteorological events19873202EEA-32
Meteorological events1988391EEA-32
Meteorological events1989754EEA-32
Meteorological events199014962EEA-32
Meteorological events1991296EEA-32
Meteorological events19922236EEA-32
Meteorological events19932775EEA-32
Meteorological events19941455EEA-32
Meteorological events1995775EEA-32
Meteorological events1996979EEA-32
Meteorological events19971723EEA-32
Meteorological events19981558EEA-32
Meteorological events199926110EEA-32
Meteorological events20001422EEA-32
Meteorological events20012112EEA-32
Meteorological events20025802EEA-32
Meteorological events20032369EEA-32
Meteorological events20043091EEA-32
Meteorological events20056661EEA-32
Meteorological events20062531EEA-32
Meteorological events20079197EEA-32
Meteorological events20084556EEA-32
Meteorological events20097389EEA-32
Meteorological events20106379EEA-32
Meteorological events20113219EEA-32
Meteorological events2012702EEA-32
Meteorological events201310535EEA-32
Meteorological events20145105EEA-32
Meteorological events20154731EEA-32
Meteorological events20162679EEA-32
Meteorological events20175323EEA-32
Meteorological events20189356EEA-32
Meteorological events20197684EEA-32
Hydrological events1980104EEA-32
Hydrological events1981357EEA-32
Hydrological events19824031EEA-32
Hydrological events19837146EEA-32
Hydrological events1984623EEA-32
Hydrological events198521EEA-32
Hydrological events1986146EEA-32
Hydrological events19876742EEA-32
Hydrological events19881015EEA-32
Hydrological events1989746EEA-32
Hydrological events19901972EEA-32
Hydrological events1991846EEA-32
Hydrological events19921672EEA-32
Hydrological events19934194EEA-32
Hydrological events199414383EEA-32
Hydrological events19953951EEA-32
Hydrological events19961775EEA-32
Hydrological events199710783EEA-32
Hydrological events19982635EEA-32
Hydrological events19993472EEA-32
Hydrological events200015029EEA-32
Hydrological events20011580EEA-32
Hydrological events200225492EEA-32
Hydrological events20031783EEA-32
Hydrological events2004332EEA-32
Hydrological events20057453EEA-32
Hydrological events20061027EEA-32
Hydrological events2007704EEA-32
Hydrological events2008912EEA-32
Hydrological events20091590EEA-32
Hydrological events20109536EEA-32
Hydrological events20113556EEA-32
Hydrological events2012595EEA-32
Hydrological events201311689EEA-32
Hydrological events20144560EEA-32
Hydrological events20152611EEA-32
Hydrological events20166388EEA-32
Hydrological events20171494EEA-32
Hydrological events2018869EEA-32
Hydrological events20195018EEA-32
Climatological events19803286EEA-32
Climatological events198119EEA-32
Climatological events19827220EEA-32
Climatological events19834332EEA-32
Climatological events1984EEA-32
Climatological events19852320EEA-32
Climatological events19863110EEA-32
Climatological events19872365EEA-32
Climatological events19882654EEA-32
Climatological events19892950EEA-32
Climatological events19904296EEA-32
Climatological events19911100EEA-32
Climatological events19928365EEA-32
Climatological events199372EEA-32
Climatological events1994612EEA-32
Climatological events19951153EEA-32
Climatological events1996466EEA-32
Climatological events19972176EEA-32
Climatological events1998860EEA-32
Climatological events19995472EEA-32
Climatological events20002713EEA-32
Climatological events2001537EEA-32
Climatological events20021EEA-32
Climatological events200317709EEA-32
Climatological events2004EEA-32
Climatological events20053670EEA-32
Climatological events20063156EEA-32
Climatological events20072558EEA-32
Climatological events200836EEA-32
Climatological events2009381EEA-32
Climatological events20101064EEA-32
Climatological events2011508EEA-32
Climatological events20123909EEA-32
Climatological events2013765EEA-32
Climatological events20141396EEA-32
Climatological events20152309EEA-32
Climatological events2016752EEA-32
Climatological events20176874EEA-32
Climatological events20184514EEA-32
Climatological events2019601EEA-32
Meteorological events1980115EU-27
Meteorological events19811792EU-27
Meteorological events19822218EU-27
Meteorological events1983650EU-27
Meteorological events19843902EU-27
Meteorological events1985588EU-27
Meteorological events19861953EU-27
Meteorological events19872781EU-27
Meteorological events1988351EU-27
Meteorological events1989696EU-27
Meteorological events199014294EU-27
Meteorological events1991261EU-27
Meteorological events19921603EU-27
Meteorological events19932444EU-27
Meteorological events19941233EU-27
Meteorological events1995700EU-27
Meteorological events1996949EU-27
Meteorological events19971529EU-27
Meteorological events19981405EU-27
Meteorological events199923523EU-27
Meteorological events20001322EU-27
Meteorological events20012087EU-27
Meteorological events20025227EU-27
Meteorological events20032316EU-27
Meteorological events20042947EU-27
Meteorological events20056336EU-27
Meteorological events20062469EU-27
Meteorological events20078697EU-27
Meteorological events20084411EU-27
Meteorological events20096323EU-27
Meteorological events20106341EU-27
Meteorological events20112552EU-27
Meteorological events2012613EU-27
Meteorological events201310242EU-27
Meteorological events20145071EU-27
Meteorological events20154568EU-27
Meteorological events20162592EU-27
Meteorological events20174632EU-27
Meteorological events20188995EU-27
Meteorological events20197513EU-27
Hydrological events198076EU-27
Hydrological events1981343EU-27
Hydrological events19824025EU-27
Hydrological events19837137EU-27
Hydrological events1984588EU-27
Hydrological events198521EU-27
Hydrological events1986141EU-27
Hydrological events19874979EU-27
Hydrological events1988986EU-27
Hydrological events1989746EU-27
Hydrological events19901746EU-27
Hydrological events1991837EU-27
Hydrological events19921672EU-27
Hydrological events19933313EU-27
Hydrological events199414219EU-27
Hydrological events19953333EU-27
Hydrological events19961715EU-27
Hydrological events199710625EU-27
Hydrological events19981449EU-27
Hydrological events19992971EU-27
Hydrological events200014431EU-27
Hydrological events20011488EU-27
Hydrological events200225415EU-27
Hydrological events20031783EU-27
Hydrological events2004322EU-27
Hydrological events20054558EU-27
Hydrological events2006776EU-27
Hydrological events2007295EU-27
Hydrological events2008912EU-27
Hydrological events20091248EU-27
Hydrological events20109533EU-27
Hydrological events20113482EU-27
Hydrological events2012586EU-27
Hydrological events201311530EU-27
Hydrological events20144442EU-27
Hydrological events20152500EU-27
Hydrological events20166149EU-27
Hydrological events20171121EU-27
Hydrological events2018834EU-27
Hydrological events20194892EU-27
Climatological events19803286EU-27
Climatological events19812EU-27
Climatological events19827220EU-27
Climatological events19834332EU-27
Climatological events1984EU-27
Climatological events19852320EU-27
Climatological events19863110EU-27
Climatological events19872365EU-27
Climatological events19882654EU-27
Climatological events19892945EU-27
Climatological events19904296EU-27
Climatological events19911100EU-27
Climatological events19928345EU-27
Climatological events199369EU-27
Climatological events1994607EU-27
Climatological events19951123EU-27
Climatological events1996466EU-27
Climatological events19972164EU-27
Climatological events1998852EU-27
Climatological events19994516EU-27
Climatological events20002704EU-27
Climatological events2001537EU-27
Climatological events20021EU-27
Climatological events200317341EU-27
Climatological events2004EU-27
Climatological events20053670EU-27
Climatological events20062786EU-27
Climatological events20072557EU-27
Climatological events200835EU-27
Climatological events2009381EU-27
Climatological events20101064EU-27
Climatological events2011508EU-27
Climatological events20123908EU-27
Climatological events2013765EU-27
Climatological events2014826EU-27
Climatological events20152309EU-27
Climatological events2016752EU-27
Climatological events20176697EU-27
Climatological events20184433EU-27
Climatological events2019601EU-27

Climate-related hazards, such as temperature extremes, heavy precipitation and droughts, pose risks to human health and can lead to substantial economic losses. Monitoring the impact of such hazards is important for informing policy and ensuring that appropriate actions are taken to minimise damage.

The EU adaptation strategy aims to ‘climate proof’ the EU by supporting informed decision-making and climate change adaptation, particularly in key vulnerable sectors. The EU is party to the UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), which requires the evaluation of disaster-related losses and economic impacts, and sets a target to reduce such losses by 2030. 

Between 1980 and 2019, weather and climate-related extremes accounted for around 81 % of total economic losses caused by natural hazards in the EEA member countries, amounting to EUR 446 billion. This is equivalent to EUR 11.1 billion per year and the cumulative deflated losses are equal to nearly 3 % of the GDP of the countries analysed.

However, because a relatively small number (3 %) of unique events was responsible for a large proportion (> 60 %) of the economic losses, resulting in high variability from year to year, it is difficult to identify trends: the average annual (inflation-corrected) losses were around EUR 6.6 billion in 1980-1989, 12.3 billion in 1990-1999, 13.2 billion in 2000-2009 and 12.5 billion in 2010-2019.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that climate-related extreme events will become even more frequent around the world. This could affect multiple sectors and cause systemic failures across Europe, leading to greater economic losses. However, the future cost of climate-related hazards depends not only on the frequency and severity of events but also on several other factors, such as the size of the populations and the value of the assets exposed. Therefore, a comprehensive, integrated approach is required to adapt to and manage the risks. Enhancing society’s resilience to climate change through a focus on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery will be key to the EU’s revised adaptation strategy, currently under development.

Figure 2. Impacts of extreme weather and climate related events in the EEA member countries and the UK (1980-2019)
Impacts of extreme weather and climate related events in the EEA member countries and the UK (1980-2019)
CountryLosses (million euros)Loss per sq. km (euros)Loss per capita (euros)Insured losses (million euros)Insured losses (%)Fatalities
Austria154151837771911501033601
Belgium50001637884803002602172
Bulgaria2758249893421455206
Switzerland 1910846275826279831511158
Cyprus393424475668281
Czechia119911520391157388832227
Germany1074453006491329512354811110
Denmark10810251892201663695949
Estonia137302697362610
Greece76895823272814822550
Spain45329895941080116812614679
Finland20376019394433214
France675241066421099335035023491
Croatia320256582719772722
Hungary6362683906221492707
Ireland461766146115524095271
Iceland95925335525452
Italy7253424012212543439520735
Liechtenstein635206175360
Lithuania1398214154167174
Luxembourg954368769211856259130
Latvia70510923302527104
Malta14947109838226177
Netherlands92052215815844433481733
Norway36971141980919965442
Poland1596651061421105871252
Portugal75918231074365093118
Romania12118508325606611322
Sweden4205958846812302947
Slovenia18198975090922612243
Slovakia1750356943291146125
Turkey3862492960544141751
United Kingdom5360521568389437278703546

The economic impact of climate-related extremes varies considerably across countries. In absolute terms, the highest economic losses in the period 1980-2019 were registered in Germany followed by Italy then France. The highest losses per capita were recorded in Switzerland, Luxemburg and Denmark, and the highest losses per area were in Malta, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Around 27 % of total losses were insured, although this also varied considerably among countries, from 1 % in Romania and Lithuania to 60 % in Belgium and Liechtenstein.

The EU adaptation strategy aims to promote action at national level, and all countries have already adopted a national adaptation policy. The Climate-ADAPT platform — developed by the European Commission and the EEA — supports action by sharing knowledge on climate change and its impacts, adaptation strategies and plans, and case studies.

No coherent mechanism is currently in place for countries to report losses to the European Commission or the EEA. This will be a key element of the revised EU adaptation strategy, in line with the priorities for action and policy targets of the SFDRR.

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