Med nations top EU’s climate change risk list

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Economic impact estimated at 6.2 bln euros/year by 2020

By Pete Harrison  (Reuters) – Italy, Spain and Greece could bear the brunt of climate change in Europe this century, with heatwaves and wildfires hitting tourism earnings and food production, according to a draft European Commission report.

The economic impact of climate change could be 6.2 billion euros ($7.9 billion) a year by 2020 if the EU's 27 nations do nothing to adapt, says an early draft of the "Adapting to Climate Change" report, seen by Reuters on Friday.

That could rise to 54-63 billion euros a year by 2060, depending on the success of measures to cut emissions, says the draft, which has not yet been approved by Europe's environment commissioner and will not be officially adopted until April.

"The studies show a strong distributional pattern of effects predicted across Europe, with a significant trend towards more negative potential effects in southeastern Europe and the Mediterranean," said the draft.

The report did not specifically name Spain, Italy and Greece, but six accompanying maps showed heavy impacts on crop yields and availability of fresh water in all three countries.

They also highlighted increased risks from wildfires in the eastern Mediterranean and Balkans and dangerous heatwaves in Spain.

North and west Europe face a mix of good and bad impacts.

"Young, old and frail persons are the most susceptible," said the draft. "It raises the issue of whether planned adaptation should specifically try and target such groups."

The European Union last year agreed to cut carbon dioxide emissions to one fifth below 1990 levels by 2020. It is now gearing up for global talks in Copenhagen in December aimed at finding an international response to climate change.

The talks come amid renewed optimism that both China and the United States are ready to commit to cutting emissions.

The draft report also highlighted the threat of mass migrations as arid regions, such as north Africa, become increasingly hostile environments.

"The EU's neighbours include some of the most vulnerable regions to climate change," said the report.

"Climate change could lead to vast displacement of populations, including into regions close to Europe or EU ultra-peripheral regions."

"Parts of the Mediterranean region, being both a neighbouring region and susceptible to the effects of climate change, (are) particularly important in this respect."