Climate crisis forces Southeast Europe governments to up disaster response spending in 2024 budgets

Climate crisis forces Southeast Europe governments to up disaster response spending in 2024 budgets
Devastating floods in Slovenia in August caused an estimated €9.9bn of damage.
By bne IntelliNews November 7, 2023

As the climate crisis leads to an increased number and severity of climate related disasters in Southeast Europe, some governments in the region have been forced to raise spending for disaster preparedness and response as they prepare their 2024 budgets. 

Slovenia, which was hit by massive flooding that caused billions of euros worth of damage in August, has a strong emphasis on post-flood reconstruction efforts in its draft budgets for the next two years. Meanwhile, Albania, also affected by floods and wildfires in 2023, increased its allocation for disaster response in the draft 2024 budget. 

Other governments may also have to increase their spending on climate related problems, as Southeast Europe is seen as particularly vulnerable to rising global temperatures. 

Slovenia’s worst floods 

In August, six people lost their lives due to the most severe floods in Slovenia's independent history. The government announced in October that a comprehensive evaluation of the direct consequences from the flooding and its impact on people, businesses and the environment amounts to €9.9bn. Flooding and landslides affected 183 out of Slovenia's 212 municipalities, with 104 of them experiencing severe consequences. The total affected area is estimated at 17,203 square km.

On September 28, the government approved the draft state budgets for the next two years, with a focus on funding initiatives to mitigate the effects of this year's devastating floods. 

The budget deficit for 2024 is planned at €2.2bn, equivalent to 3.3% of the country's GDP. The budget gap for 2025 is envisaged to amount €1.26bn, or 1.8% of GDP. Rebuilding efforts and aiding affected populations and the economy will require a substantial reallocation of resources within the state budget, with priority given to measures addressing flood-related consequences.

As an EU member, the burden on Slovenia’s own resources, however, is reduced. Rating agency Fitch noted that Slovenia’s recovery from the floods “will be financed mainly from EU funds, which would limit the negative impact of the devastations on the economy, while reconstruction works are expected to boost investment growth in coming years.”

Albania focuses on civil emergencies

Meanwhile, total of ALL5.4bn (€50.6mn) will be allocated for civil emergencies in Albania's 2024 budget – which has been fiercely challenged by the opposition – an increase of ALL1bn compared to this year, reported Euronews Albania.

The boost in funding comes in response to the escalating frequency of natural disasters. Albania, similarly to other Southeast European countries, has experienced an increase in disasters such as wildfires and floods, linked to climate change. 

Most recently, Storm Ciara hit Albania causing flooding and partial power cuts in the capital Tirana and other areas. This came after earlier in the year there was widespread flooding in the northern Shkoder region. Albania has also been battling forest fires for much of the summer and into the autumn. 

The emergency funds are integrated into the Ministry of Defence's budget. Additionally, ALL800bn will be distributed among municipalities, based on formula that considers their geographical size and the risks of fires and floods they face.

Within the emergency budget, ALL1bn is earmarked for initiatives geared towards averting natural disasters. ALL500bn will be designated for dam projects within this programme, while ALL200mn will be allocated to mitigate the aftermath of natural disasters, particularly in cases where the expenditure aligns with investment goals. 

Bulgarian coastal floods

In August, the heaviest rain in decades flooded large parts of Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast, causing significant damage and taking at least four lives.

People bne IntelliNews spoke to in the area said this was the worst storm they had seen in the last 50 years. Observers were divided over whether it was consequence of climate change or if poor environmental practices might have been responsible for part of the devastation.

The rainstorm destroyed bridges, flooded roads and dragged cars and caravans into the sea in some of the popular holiday resorts along the coast. In Tsarevo, local authorities had to urgently evacuate tourists from coastal hotels.

Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov told MPs on September 8 that the damage from the floods was estimated at more than BGN30mn (€15mn) but the state will be able to fully cover the cost through the Disaster and Accident Response Fund. 

Farmers across several countries in the region were also affected by summer storms, linked to climate change. Weeks of storms that across the region caused extensive damage to crops, affecting countries including Croatia, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. They came on top of record heat in parts of Southeast Europe. 

Global costs of climate change 

Globally, damage caused by climate change-related extreme weather events is estimated at $16mn per hour over the past two decades, according to a study by Nature Communications quoted by The Guardian, looking at the economic impact of the climate crisis due to extreme weather events. According to the research, the damage caused by these events is an annual average of $140bn, with a range between $60bn and $230bn between 2000 and 2019. 

Southeast Europe stands out as one of the regions most at risk when it comes to climate change. Projections indicate that the upcoming summer warming in this area is anticipated to surpass global rates by a considerable margin. One study projects that cities in Southeast Europe will experience some of the fastest temperatures increases worldwide over the coming decades, and temperatures in the region will resemble those in the US Deep South by 2050.