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Consistent climate protection and precautionary climate adaptation prevent damage worth billions

Thomas Korbun, Scientific Director at the IÖW (right), presented the results of the climate impact cost study at a press conference of BMWK and BMUV (Photo: BMWK/Andreas Mertens).

From 2000 to 2021, at least 145 billion euros in damages have resulted from the consequences of heat, drought or floods. 80 billion of that since 2018 alone. These extreme weather events are becoming more likely due to climate change. By the middle of the century, researchers expect cumulative economic losses of 280 to 900 billion euros, depending on the extent of global warming. This is the result of a recent study presented today in Berlin. The study was carried out by the Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), the Gesellschaft für Wirtschaftliche Strukturforschung mbH (GWS) and Prognos AG; it was commissioned by the BMWK and supported by the BMUV. In addition to the financially measurable damages, there are numerous health impairments, deaths due to heat and flooding, the strain on ecosystems, the loss of biodiversity, and the reduction of quality of life.

The researchers have systematized the different cost dimensions of climate damages, analyzed the damages of extreme events since 2000, especially from the 2018/2019 heat and drought summers and from the 2021 floods, and modeled future damage and adaptation costs for different fields of action. Depending on the extent to which efforts for more climate protection as well as adaptation to climate change are implemented, the future consequences of the climate crisis will develop in terms of their intensity and the costs incurred. The study also concludes that the potential damage costs of climate change could be reduced completely (weak climate change), by 80 percent (medium climate change) or by 60 percent (strong climate change) through purely monetary investments in adaptation measures, depending on the severity of the climate crisis. In particular, nature-based solutions, such as carbon storage in vegetation and soil through the preservation of forests or peatlands, can both mitigate greenhouse gases and contribute to adaptation to climate change impacts.

State Secretary for the Environment Christiane Rohleder: "The consequences of the climate crisis are having a significant impact on prosperity in Germany. Investments in ambitious climate protection and precautionary climate adaptation are crucial to increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of ecosystems. This also serves to protect people. With a precautionary climate adaptation strategy and a Climate Adaptation Act, we will create a reliable strategic framework for climate precautions in Germany. The figures in the study clearly show that there is an enormous need for funding for climate adaptation. But the numbers also show that without effective climate adaptation, the costs will be much higher."

Parliamentary State Secretary Stefan Wenzel: "The results of the study show that we must take ambitious climate protection very seriously. Otherwise, there is a risk of imposing high damage costs on future generations. Climate change is already having severe economic consequences today, which could grow massively. Every euro invested in climate protection reduces the economic costs that could arise in the future as a result of further extreme events."

Under the leadership of the Federal Environment Ministry, the German government is currently working on a precautionary climate adaptation strategy with measurable targets. It is one of the core elements of the Climate Adaptation Act, the draft of which the BMUV will soon submit for departmental approval. This law is intended to create a strategic framework for action on climate adaptation in Germany. Since fall 2022, the federal and state governments have been developing solutions for future-proof joint financing of climate adaptation. The Natural Climate Action Program (ANK) aims to protect, strengthen and restore ecosystems that have been particularly stressed by the climate crisis. The National Water Strategy also focuses on nature-based solutions to ensure sustainable use of water resources.

For the Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, the accelerated transformation of the energy system is at the top of the agenda. Here, Germany must significantly accelerate the pace. With the amendment to the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) and the new expansion target of 80 percent in 2030, the German government has already set a key course. It is the most far-reaching amendment to the EEG since the law came into existence. This year, the BMWK will implement further urgently needed planning accelerations for solar and wind power. At the same time, the German government is working on an ambitious ramp-up of hydrogen technology. Last but not least, energy must be used more efficiently so that less energy has to be generated.

More information:

The project: Costs of Climate Change Impacts in Germany