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France, Italy, Belgium: The European regions most at risk from floods and sea level rise

Houses were destroyed by the flooding of the Ahr river in Schuld, Germany, 2021.
Houses were destroyed by the flooding of the Ahr river in Schuld, Germany, 2021. Copyright AP Photo/Michael Probst
Copyright AP Photo/Michael Probst
By Euronews Green
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One Scottish county is forecast to have its climate change damage risk triple by 2050 from 1990, the biggest jump in Europe.

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The European countries most at risk from climate change have been revealed by a “sophisticated” new study.

Milan, Venice, Antwerp, Hanover and Lille are among the most vulnerable cities in Europe according to Cross Dependency Initiative (XDI), an independent climate risk analysis company.

Its ‘Gross Domestic Climate Risk’ (GDCR) rankings calculate the physical climate risk to the built environment in more than 2,600 territories worldwide by 2050.

Asia dominates the list of provinces facing the greatest total or ‘aggregated’ level of threat to buildings, with more than half (114) of the top 200 in this region.

But increasing threats from flooding, sea-level rise and fire make a number of European areas vulnerable too.

Where in Europe is most vulnerable to climate risk?

A number of European provinces made it into the GDCR’s top 100 for aggregated damage ratio, which looks at the losses from extreme weather damage as a fraction of replacement costs.

The areas modelled to experience the most damage are in northern Germany, northern Italy and northern France.

Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) in Germany, home to Hanover city, tops the list. It is followed by Vlaanderen (Flanders) in Belgium which encompasses Antwerp and Bruges.

Francois Mori/AP
Residents evacuated Nemours, 50 miles south of Paris, in summer 2016 due to flooding. Northern Germany, northern Italy and northern France are most at risk of future damage.Francois Mori/AP

The city of Krasnodar in southern Russia comes third and Veneto in Italy, home of Venice, fourth.

Flooding in Veneto caused over €1 billion in damage in 2019. Its iconic capital also faces new dangers from drought, with weeks of dry winter weather now leaving some canals too shallow for gondolas to navigate.

Lombardia in Italy and Hauts-de-France in France - where Lille and Calais are situated - also made the top 10 riskiest provinces in Europe, due to flooding and coastal inundation hazards.

Italy’s Emilia-Romagna, home to Bologna and Parma, and Bavaria in Germany, home to Munich and Nuremberg cities, were not far behind.

Where are the most climate-vulnerable places in the UK?

Greater London and Lincolnshire in the UK are both in the top 10 per cent of states and provinces imperilled by climate-driven extreme weather.

The study also looks at which places face the greatest increased risk of climate damage.

By this metric, parts of Scotland have a particularly concerning future. The risk is expected to have doubled between 1990 and 2050 for half of all Scottish counties.

In Inverness, XDI is predicting a tripled threat - the largest increase forecast across all of Europe.

Where faces the biggest threat from climate change globally?

However Europe is not on the frontlines of climate change globally.

80 per cent of the top 50 most at-risk states and provinces in 2050 are in China, India, or the US, according to XDI’s initial analysis.

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Other countries with multiple provinces and states in the top 50 include Brazil, Pakistan and Indonesia.

“In terms of overall scale of damage risk, and in terms of risk escalation, Asia has the most to lose as climate change extreme weather increases, and the most to gain from preventing worsening climate change and accelerating climate-resilient investment,” says Rohan Hamden, CEO of XDI.

The populous Asian cities of Beijing, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, Taiwan, and Mumbai fall within the 100 cities most at risk of climate damage, and all are economically vital.

What should be done with these findings?

Hamden called the company’s findings “the most sophisticated global analysis of physical climate risk to date,” adding “Now - for the first time - the finance industry can directly compare Mumbai, New York and Berlin using a like-for-like methodology.”

XDI’s Gross Domestic Climate Risk is intended to help the finance industry assess and compare physical climate risk in different countries.

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“It is crucial for companies, governments and investors to understand the financial and economic implications of physical climate risk and weigh this risk in their decision-making before these costs escalate beyond financial tipping points,” says Hamden.

But the rankings also serve as a catalogue of impending climate destruction, if the worst scenarios of global warming are not averted through finance and cooperation from governments and corporations.

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