BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission warned on Tuesday that the EU urgently needs more funding to respond to climate change-fuelled crises after its emergency aid reserve was exhausted in both 2021 and 2022 and natural disasters have increased this year.
Europe is emerging from another summer of extreme weather and climate impacts. Devastating floods in Slovenia killed at least six people, Greece was battered by deadly wildfires and storms and record-breaking drought ravaged farming in Spain.
In July and August alone, the European Union’s emergency response centre – which coordinates the delivery of assistance to crisis-hit countries – was called upon 12 times, in response to wildfires, floods and emergencies in Ukraine, European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said.
The EU’s solidarity and emergency aid reserve, which helps European countries in an emergency, has a maximum annual budget of 1.2 billion euros ($1.29 billion).
The Commission wants to add an extra 2.5 billion euros to the reserve in 2024-2027 as part of an ongoing review of the EU’s seven-year budget. EU countries and lawmakers would need to negotiate and approve the extra cash, but there is reluctance among governments to chip in more money.
“The EU civic protection mechanism, Europe’s disaster response system, is already working at full operational level,” Lenarcic told a meeting of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg.
“Resources are strained at the limits. Soon, we might not be able to help when needed,” he said.
With requests for emergency assistance up by 400% in the last two years, Lenarcic said the EU’s current budget for disaster response is too small.
“We need more financial reinforcement,” Lenarcic said, adding that bigger investments are also needed to prevent disasters, for example, through sustainable forest management to limit fires, and cut the CO2 emissions causing climate change.
Greek member of EU Parliament (MEP) Vangelis Meimarakis urged the EU to do more to aid countries hit by worsening extreme weather.
“All Greek MEPs call upon you, regardless of their political group, to carry out powerful steps to help,” he said.
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