Germany floods ‘clear indication’ of climate change, Ursula von der Leyen warns

Deadly flooding comes after EU announces sweeping plan to cut carbon footprint in half

Aerials of flooded village in western Germany

The severity of flooding across western Europe in recent days is a clear indication that urgent action is needed to tackle climate change, the head of the European Commission has said.

More than 1,000 people were thought to be missing in flood-hit regions of Germany and Belgium on Friday, where rising waters have already killed more than 100 people.

“It is the intensity and the length of the events that science tells us this is a clear indication of climate change and that this is something that really, really shows the urgency to act,” Ursula von der Leyen told reporters.

Ms von der Leyen recently unveiled the EU’s sweeping plan to cut its carbon footprint by more than half by the end of this decade, with tougher caps on car emissions and a plan to tax foreign companies over pollution.

The “European Green Deal: Fit for 55” plan will aim to produce 40 per cent of the bloc’s energy from wind, wave and solar sources by 2030 as part of efforts to move the continent away from fossil fuels.

The intensity of this week’s floods, which followed record rainfall that caused rivers to burst their banks, has illustrated why campaigners are calling for radical action to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

Experts have warned that the frequency of extreme weather events is increasing due to climate change and such events are set to become more common in the future.

“Some parts of western Europe... received up to two months of rainfall in the space of two days,” Clare Nullis, a World Meteorological Organisation spokesperson, said on Friday.

“What made it worse is that the soils were already saturated by previous rainfall.”

She added: “Climate change is already increasing the frequency of extreme events. And many single events have been shown to be made worse by global warming.”

Germany’s president Frank-Walter Steinmeier said this week that he was “stunned” by the floods as he pledged support to the families of those killed and to cities and towns facing significant damage.

“Only if we take up the fight against climate change decisively will we be able to keep extreme weather conditions such as we are experiencing now in check,” Mr Steinmeier said.

Additional reporting by agencies

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