During the European Civil Protection Forum 2018, in Brussels, Belgium, on 5-6 March, one of the most highlighted issues was the importance of cross-sectoral cooperation in meeting the current and future challenges in disaster risk management. On the second day of the forum, a panel discussion specifically targeted this issue: Bridging climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction to scale up prevention. The panel was moderated by Elena Višnar Malinovská, Head of Adaptation Unit, Directorate-General for Climate Action, European Commission. Ms. Malinovská opened the session by discussing the importance of exploiting the synergies that exist between Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) as they have a common goal – to reduce impacts of extreme weather events and reduce the occurrence of disasters. She further stressed that: “there is no doubt that we are witnesses to the most dangerous experiment of humankind, which is the environmental experiment – called climate change”.

Mr. Andre Jol, Head of Group Climate Change impacts, Vulnerability and Adaption, European Environmental Agency, highlighted some of the findings from the report: Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Europé: Enhancing coherence of the knowledge base, policies and practices. The report explores the linkages between knowledge and practices in CCA and DRR. Mr. Jol emphasized that: “we need to look at the vulnerable population because climate change and disaster risk can increase social inequalities”. Thereafter, he concluded that: “the key common ground is looking at resilience, and to have a whole-society approach for enhancing resilience means to mainstream both Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction into all other policies”.

Abhilash Panda, Deputy Chief, Europe and Central Asia, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), highlighted the increasing risks related to climate change, both in scope and numbers: “between 2005-2015, 90% of disasters were weather and climate related, and while mortality is decreasing, the number of people affected is increasing”. He concluded by emphasizing the close interconnections between the Sendai Framework and the Sustainable Development Goals: “one cannot be implemented without the other, and we cannot achieve the SDGs’ targets without reducing risks”.

Clemens Liehr, Project Manager of PLACARD, Environment Agency, Austria, addressed the issue from the practical angle. He has been working on developing guidelines for collaboration between the two communities (CCA and DRR), and explained that the biggest challenge so far is a lack of communication between the two.

The session clearly showed the importance of connecting CCA and DRR, and the need to overcome the challenges involved in cooperation in order to achieve the targets of the Sendai Framework and the SDGs. While the Sendai Framework offers a good general structure, action plans adapted to specific contexts are needed to promote the implementation. In the Baltic Sea Region, such a tailor-made implementation plan, focusing on the targets most relevant to the countries in the region, would offer a good platform to increase cooperation and to strengthen implementation.