Investing in Disaster Prevention in the EU with the World Bank and EU Commission

Due to our high-resolution global flood modelling capabilities, JBA was selected as a key partner for a report on disaster risk and prevention in European Union (EU) member states.

The Economics for Disaster Prevention and Preparedness project was developed by the European Commission and the World Bank.

It aims to guide policymakers and practitioners to make smart investments which can strengthen disaster and climate resilience, while delivering social, economic and environmental benefits.

The report examines the costs of flooding and earthquake in terms of both financial losses and social impacts, including the number of people affected, for both a current and future climate.

In our blog, we look at the context of flooding in Europe, the methods of the study, and some of the key results.

Flood risk in Europe

Flood hazard is ubiquitous in European states and flood events are becoming more common.

The European Academics Science Advisory Council (EASAC) stated in 2018 that the number of devastating flood events has more than doubled in the past 30 years (EASAC, 2018).

As has been dramatically highlighted by the July 2021 flooding in Europe, the combination of widespread heavy rainfall and intense localised downpours poses a significant risk from fluvial (river) and pluvial (surface water) or flash flooding.

And as this event shows, flooding doesn’t stop at geopolitical borders – weather systems can be extremely large and travel for long distances at a time, impacting multiple countries at once.

In 2002, 2005 and 2013, large swathes of Central Europe were hit by flooding at the same time due to heavy and widespread rainfall that led major rivers throughout the region to overtop their banks.

Furthermore, the EASAC stated that there has been a proportionally higher increase in the frequency of events caused by pluvial flooding in Europe, with localised, heavy rainfall causing significant damage.

Modelling flood risk for EU Member States

JBA has developed consistent high-resolution probabilistic modelling across the EU as part of our unique global flood model coverage. This provided a rapid overview of flood risk for the study using existing data, which could then be refined further with local information.

We modelled two primary sets of scenarios for the project:

  • Traditional economic value of losses (building and contents asset value)
  • Population (number of people affected by flooding)

Both were undertaken across two time/climate scenarios:

  • A current, baseline scenario (known as the ‘2020 scenario’)
  • A future climate scenario affected by climate change and with updated population (the ‘2050 scenario’)

Fluvial and pluvial flood were modelled for the 2020 scenario, while the future scenario modelled changes in fluvial flood in line with the scope of the project.

For each of the 27 EU member states, the Global Earthquake Model Foundation (GEM) provided exposure data for the five lines of business included in the economic part of the project: residential, commercial, industrial, healthcare and education.

To model population affected, occupants per residential building were considered rather than cost per building.

Note: The modelling for this study used a project-specific exposure dataset to meet the specific requirements and therefore results may differ slightly to typical industry estimates.

Economic losses

Across the modelling, residential losses contribute to approximately half of the AALs for each country. Commercial, industrial and education all contribute almost 15% of each country’s AAL, leaving a contribution from healthcare exposure of 8% on average.

The largest AALs were produced for Germany and France, which reflects not only their flood risk including significant river systems, but also their large population and economic size in terms of GDP.

Figure 1 shows average annual losses (AAL) for the top 10 most affected EU Member States for each of the building categories.

However, this only shows part of the picture of the hazard. To remove the impacts of large economies and populations on results, we also produced loss ratios, or AAL expressed as a percentage of the total asset values (Figure 2).

When these factors were removed, countries in Central Eastern Europe, such as Bulgaria, Slovenia and Slovakia, display some of the largest loss ratios. Figure 2 shows the results of loss ratios for both current and future scenarios for river flood.

Figure 2 shows the 10 greatest loss ratios for river flood for residential building types. This demonstrates the impact of removing large populations and economies from results, and demonstrates how this risk might change under future climates and population growth.

Factors that could influence losses include:

  • Percentage of buildings in flood risk areas (e.g. Austria, Bulgaria and Romania have population centres along the Danube floodplain, whereas e.g. Ireland has a lower population density and fewer properties in flood prone areas)
  • Existence of flood defences (the Netherlands has a significant flood risk but low loss ratio due to its substantial flood defence network)
  • General low flood risk due to climate and topography (e.g. Cyprus)

Population affected

The results of the ‘population affected’ model runs show a similar trend to that of the economic events, with Germany displaying the highest number of people affected (Figure 3) followed by France.

However, there are some notable differences – Poland and Romania both have a high number of people affected compared to the economic modelling, whereas Sweden has a lower number compared to its losses. This may reflect differences in building value between these countries.

Figure 3 shows average annual people impacted by flood for the top affected EU Member States. Germany and France remain in the top spots compared to AALs while Poland, Romania and Hungary move into the top 10. It also highlights how this risk might change under future climates and population growth.

Effects of climate change and population growth

When comparing AAL between the 2020 scenario and 2050 scenario, AAL increased in almost every country except for Cyprus. Both Ireland and Sweden experience a 50% increase in AAL over this period, the largest increase in the EU, while several other countries experience a 20-30% increase.

The majority of change in loss in these countries is driven by climate change increasing the flood hazard, although population growth and a general increase in asset value can also influence results. Between 2020 and 2050 there is projected to be a 12% increase in the number of people affected by flood.

Figure 4 shows changes in AAL between current and future scenarios for the top 10 most affected EU Member States for all building types.


This report reveals the scale of potential costs of disasters in Europe. Some top findings include:

  • Impacts from major earthquakes and floods can exceed 7% to 17% of GDP across the EU Member States
  • Each year, there is a 10% chance that Europe will experience earthquake and flood severe enough to exhaust reserves
  • On average, damage to residential buildings forms over 50% of total loss for both flood and earthquake risk, which points to an urgent need to increase access to and uptake of catastrophe household insurance
  • Only 30% of countries in Europe have more than half of households insured against disaster risk

The report demonstrates that disaster risk financing across Europe is limited. Even in the best-case scenario, European governments are liable to finance on average around €16 billion of disaster costs each year.

However, it also found that disaster risk finance and flood mitigation measures can reduce the full impact of events and calls for moves towards a comprehensive disaster risk strategy for the EU.

Our flood modelling for Europe is part of JBA’s unique global flood model coverage, offering probabilistic flood risk modelling at any location worldwide for the first time. This includes 30m consistent analysis globally, which was used for this project in Europe, and country-specific methods at 5m resolution in certain markets.

Our consultancy team can also work with you to create bespoke models for your needs, including population numbers as well as economic losses, and incorporating local insights for a specific view of risk.

For more information, get in touch with the team.

Read the full report here.


European Academics Science Advisory Council (EASAC). 2018. Extreme weather events in Europe. [online] Germany: Schaefer Druck und Verlag GmbH. Available at: [Accessed 16 August 2021]

World bank report and website

European Environment Agency. 2020. Economic damage caused by weather and climate-related extreme events in Europe (1980-2019). Indicator Assessment. [Link on p4 of WB report]