A new €5.2 Million Horizon Europe Project, ‘Disaster Resilience for Extreme Climate Events providing Interoperable Data, Models, Communication and Governance (DIRECTED) Project’ was launched on the 29th & 30th November in Braunschweig, Germany and is set to revolutionize the governance and management of climate disasters across multiple civil society and emergency agencies. Physical, social and data scientists are coming together from across Europe with local authorities and first responders to design a new integrated system (a data fabric) that will bring together multiple climate risk assessment tools, disaster warning systems and disaster communication and organisation into one manageable system for use by on-the-ground disaster managers.
Four regional and municipal clusters from the Capital Region of Denmark, the Danube Region, Emilia Romagna Region, Italy and the Rhine-Erft District, Germany are coming together with academic researchers and specialist SME’s from the Technical University of Braunschweig (TUB), ETH Zurich, Danish Technical University (DTU), Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), German Research Centre for GeoScience (GFZ), University College Cork (UCC), Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Stockholm Environment Institute, Oxford (SEI), 52 North Spatial Information Research, GECOSistema, Genillard & Co and Oasis Hub to participate in ‘Real World Labs’ analysing on-the-ground practices, governance and systems of multiple disaster practitioners involved in climate change adaptation and disaster management.
The collaboration is a rare opportunity to share disaster risk management practices and problems to enable more efficiencies across disaster protection networks to improve information flow and ability to respond to extreme climate events by providing tailored information to the many agencies involved in large scale disasters and disaster planning.
As well as designing the data fabric, the group will look at how to make multiple climate disaster assessment & planning tools ‘interoperable’ with each other, thus further enabling their functionality to enhance climate disaster risk assessment and on the ground planning for prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
In addition, social scientists will be drawing out how multiple agencies involved in preparing for any major climate emergency can better improve their joint working and understand the disaster authorities and first responders needs for relevant data to manage complex climate disaster risk assessment and resilience planning. The project team will also look at how work silos and communication bottlenecks at the many different levels of administration can be overcome to facilitate cooperation for more efficient disaster management in the future.
[This project is an Innovation Action under the Civil Security for Society, Disaster-Resilient Societies Programme of Horizon Europe funded by the European Union. Project details and a full list of participant organisations can be found on the link: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/101073978. Associate partners SEI Oxford and Oasis Hub are funded by Innovate UK and ETH Zurich is funded by The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), Switzerland]
In total, 19 countries and 81 million people share the just over 800,000 km² large Danube River Basin (DRB), which makes it the world’s most international river basin. Recent studies have shown that climate change has already impacted the frequency and severity of hydroclimatic extremes in the Danube basin, challenging existing risk mitigating measures for built-up areas (buildings, industry, infrastructure) and agricultural land.
In recent years, several droughts, floods and forest fires have occurred along the Danube River Basin - resulting in severe economic and ecological damage. Due to the enormous length of the Danube of about 2900 km, the heterogeneous characteristics of the DRB as well as the diverse land and water use along the 10 riparian countries, there is no universal disaster prevention solution that can be promoted to the local actors.
A variety of private and public entities are seeking better technologies and data to support risk assessment of future events for long-term adaptation and (financial) resilience. As the Danube region is a transboundary river basin, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) has to be actioned and coordinated at different administrative levels. As a result, basin-wide assessments and scientific results on climate change impacts and possibilities for DRR must be considered on a site-specific basis and communicated in a targeted manner with the responsible local institutions. This way, the adapted civil protection measures are not only theoretically available, but can be applied targeted by the local authorities in case of a natural disaster without losing valuable time. However, this presupposes that all regional institutions involved in civil protection coordinate with each other in order to know exactly which protective measures are carried out by whom under which conditions. In order to be able to achieve this, regular civil protection exercises are indispensable.
Expected outcomes: In the past decade, various tools have been developed with the help of state-of-the-art models and new datasets to detect imminent natural disasters in the Danube basin such as floods, droughts and forest fires at an early stage, but also predictive models that can depict the susceptibility of individual regions to be hit by these natural disasters in the long term considering climate change impact. One of the models that is particularly suitable for the long-term risk assessment of the Danube catchment is the Future Danube Model (FDM). In the course of the project we will test and improve the functionality of the FDM. In addition, one of the established early warning systems, which is particularly suitable for use in the DRB, will be selected and adapted in such a way that, in combination with the FDM, short-, medium- and long-term emerging hazards can be identified.
Just as important as the reliable and precise detection of hazards is the appropriate handling of emerging natural disasters - especially the adequate risk communication and frequent training.
We put the established processes of all institutions involved to the test with the aim of examining and improving short-term immediate measures as well as medium- to long-term preventive and protective measures. Therefore, the entire spectrum of stakeholders, including, practitioners, civil defense organizations, regional authorities, and members of the private sector from rural communities will be addressed. Recognition and collaboration of disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation strategies and support for further integration of the needs of diverse local and regional stakeholders will be facilitated, and numerical tools will be made interoperable to ensure greater transparency and accessibility of information on the impacts of extreme events to all stakeholders, enabling more people and institutions to make data-driven, well-coordinated decisions for disaster risk management. In the long term, this is expected to contribute to active partnerships between the public administration and private institutions, such as the insurance industry, for DRR and CCA strategies. In addition, the integrated risk governance framework RISK-TANDEM will leverage synergies, strengthen community engagement, promote multi-risk thinking, and facilitate cross-border management of natural hazards and risks.
The Erft river catchment was among the most affected regions by the flood in July 2021. The hydrological responses to extreme rainfall (up to 200 mm within 24 hours) produced unprecedented flooding along the Erft river and its tributaries causing havoc, huge economic losses and loss of life. While the risk of intense flood events is especially high for the upper reaches, in the lowland part of the catchment the opposite extreme, i.e. drought risk is much more severe. Due to ongoing open pit mining activities and related groundwater pumping, the Erft river does not have contact to the groundwater in most parts of the lowland catchment and no baseflow can be maintained during meteorological droughts. Both hydrological extremes impose particular challenges to the communities living and working in, and managing, the Erft catchment. A major challenge is related to the question of how unprecedented floods like those in July 2021 need to be considered in flood frequency statistics, risk assessments and ultimately in flood risk management and governance. The definition of worst case scenarios will need to consider climate change projections to derive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) strategies covering structural and non-structural measures. It is acknowledged that no structural measure would have been able to control the amount of runoff generated from precipitation in July 2021. Therefore, risk awareness and its communication needs significant improvements to enhance the management of flood events in the future. Learnings from past events must be accounted for in risk governance processes. Further, by the end of the 2020s the end of open pit mining will significantly change the runoff regime in the lower catchment area. Water pumped out of open pit mines currently contributes 70% of the Erft river discharge in more than one third of the catchment. In view of such structural changes, the assessment of future drought-risk is challenging and poses important requirements for integrated multi-risk governance.
Expected outcomes: The Real World Lab (RWL) expects to enhance existing communication pathways for hydroclimatic extreme events as well as to co-develop an integrated risk-management strategy that is coordinated with relevant stakeholders from both DRR and Climate Change Adaption (CCA) domains and citizens in the Erft catchment. From a scientific point of view, the aim is to investigate how climate-change impacts will affect the frequency and severity of future floods to obtain a robust estimation of design values for structural and non-structural measures. For this purpose, new data sources and products, e.g. seamless forecasts will be used by existing numeric flood and water resources management models. Existing hydrological models are based on the NASIM model software and can be used and further developed in the framework of the project. Moreover, we expect to get a better understanding of climate-change impacts on different planning scenarios of the Erft river. Finally, the Erft water board envisages to build capacity and become part of a lasting European RWL partnership.
Emilia Romagna Region
The Civil Protection of the Emilia-Romagna Region (ARSTPC-ER) together with the ARPAE Hydrometeo Service Civil Protection Functional Centre are responsible for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) related to climate risks. This includes early warning, Disaster Risk Management (DRM) systems and Climate Change Adaption (CCA) planning. The region is susceptible to a multitude of natural hazards including extreme rainfall events, marine ingressions, coastal erosion and wildfires. The dominant erosive phenomena and the morphological structure of the territory make a large part of the coastline prone to marine ingression, which is exacerbated by the rising sea levels and increasing frequency and intensity of extremes. The risk of flooding is widespread and particularly high during compound events and extreme marine-weather events. It is aggravated by the inefficiency and/or inadequacy of urban drainage systems in some places. Likewise, the risk of wildfires is particularly high during summer as forests and densely populated residential areas are highly co-located along the coastline. To mitigate the diverse risks, effective warning systems are critically needed, based on short and medium-term (seasonal) forecasts with high spatial resolution. It has also been pointed out that there is a need for improving the coordination between the various first responders (public bodies, service managers, volunteers) in case of extreme events to support actions in the emergency phase, based on an effective and coordinated analysis of a large diversity of data from monitoring networks (wind, temperature and rain gauges, hydrometers, wave meters, tide gauges) and modelling tools for real time data integration and forecasting. Similarly, there is a need for pre-emptive damage assessment tools to support public administrations in choosing medium and long-term prevention measures, fostering adaptation to changing risks of floods and wildfires, particularly in view of climate change. A challenge for local governance of disaster risks is the limited ability to coordinate and support multiple stakeholders in both early warning and when planning climate change mitigation and adaptation. The lack of capacity building and cultural awareness among multiple stakeholders concerning climate change threats currently seems to be a critical barrier in implementing integrated DRR and CCA strategies.
Expected outcomes: The Real World Lab (RWL) will address the above-mentioned challenges, increase knowledge and build capacity towards new and existing DRR and CCA tools and models for supporting both early warning and long-term CCA strategies. DIRECTED will also increase awareness of the importance of interoperability-deployed dataset, tools and workflows for a more effective implementation of integrated DRR and CCA strategies. Improved knowledge on the physical multi-hazards and multiple risks under different climate change scenarios will particularly support capacity-building in structural and non-structural measures for resilience.
The Capital Region of Denmark
Copenhagen and the surrounding Capital Region of Denmark are estimated to hold some of the highest flood damage potential amongst countries bordering the Baltic Sea. Due to climate change, changed rainfall patterns combined with a heightened frequency and intensity of cloudbursts are increasingly leading to overflows from streams and sewer systems, impacting densely populated and rural areas in the region, e.g. as was the case of the 2011 cloudburst event that caused insured losses of €700M in Copenhagen. Recently drought has emerged as another critical factor to consider (e.g. 2018). The large and compound diversity of climate-related hazards combined with the exceptionally high concentration of people, valuable assets and critical infrastructure in Copenhagen and the Capital Region urgently necessitates effective and coordinated Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and Climate Change Adaption (CCA). Currently, major challenges relate to governance and policy integration, and to coordination and collaboration across municipal boundaries as the enactment, funding and planning of, e.g. climate adaptation in Denmark is carried out at the municipal level, often in collaboration with privatised water utilities, within a broad national and legal framework. In some cases, this leaves climate adaptation planning in an institutional void. Also, emergency response services are principally anchored at the municipal level. As a result, overall risk governance, impact assessment models, data availability, emergency preparedness, adaptive capacity and even community involvement and risk acceptance levels often vary across administrative borders, hindering effective Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) of current and future pressures from climate extremes.
Climate Change Adaptation challenges in the Capital Region of Denmark:
- Difficulties with enactment, funding and planning across administrative borders, especially regarding coastal and catchment areas
- Financial and legal frameworks are insufficient
- Very little experience with drought
- Low risk perception
- Data dispute/Protection levels
Expected outcomes: This Real World Lab (RWL) will employ the RISK-TANDEM framework as means of co-innovating new real-life governance strategies and robust decision-support methodologies for integrated risk reduction and improved adaptation to climate extreme events at the regional and local levels. Specifically, the RWL will use the knowledge, participatory and technical innovations from DIRECTED to reconcile the key aspects of “interoperability” that currently serves as a barrier for effective DRR. The enhanced and interoperable model and data-transformation components developed in WP2 and WP5 will be demonstrated and co-evaluated at different scales and levels. New and improved practices, dialogues and collaboration between first and second responders, scientific and technical communities, local policy-makers, communities and other stakeholders will be pursued in order to build lasting partnerships and direct the rapid deployment of the new innovations.
Our Directed mission is to
Overcome silos between technical and political authorities of all levels, including organisations, sectors and disciplines by improving dialogues and communication among DRR and CCA actors and by promoting the exchange and integration of information and knowledge.
Leverage synergies, combine efforts and reduce the fragmentation within DRR and CCA domains, including addressing multi-level governance and different spatial and temporal scales.
Promote multi-risk thinking by means of a novel transdisciplinary multi-risk governance framework related to climate extremes (RISK-TANDEM) aimed at assessing, evaluating, managing and communicating multi-hazard, multi-risk issues in close collaboration with engaged stakeholders, practitioners and concerned citizens.
Build capacity and lasting real-world partnerships and collaboration between involved actors that will last beyond the project.
Exploit the power of open data and open science, improving capabilities (e.g. using a flexible Data Fabric architecture) to make use of scattered information for more effective decisions, including knowledge and tools developed within past, present and future research and innovation initiatives.
Real World Labs
New Horizon Europe Project, set to improve climate disaster risk management across multiple civil authorities and first responders in Europe
€5.2 Million Horizon Europe Project (Directed) aims to improve the interoperability of multiple European climate risk assessment and planning tools and bring them together in a manageable system (a data fabric) that enables better disaster risk assessment and management by European disaster protection authorities and first responders.
Using ‘Real World Labs’ to critically analyse and improve current work-flows and governance linked to disaster risk management and disaster risk reduction.
Promoting a multi-risk perspective on climate change adaptation by considering the impacts of floods, droughts, heatwaves, forest fires and storms.