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Alpine Space

Region's countries

Entire territory of Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein and Slovenia, the Alps and the Rhone Valley in France, the southern regions of Germany and the Alpine foothills regions of Italy.

 

Policy framework

1.    Transnational cooperation programme

The INTERREG V B Alpine Space Programme (ASP) supports actions helping to make the Alpine Space more innovative, low-carbon and better connected, and contribute to the improved governance of the region. The four priorities for the period 2014-2020 programme are:

  1. Innovative Alpine Space;
  2. Low carbon Alpine Space;
  3. Liveable Alpine Space;
  4. Well-governed Alpine Space.

Specific aims of the programme include: (i) boosting research, technological development and innovation; (ii) contributing to support the shift towards a low-carbon economy in all sectors; (iii) protecting the environment and promoting resource efficiency; (iv) enhancing the institutional capacity and an efficient public administration. During this period, the programme is expected to improve:

  • The cooperation between enterprises and research institutes;
  • The potential to access and use low-carbon mobility and transport options;
  • The level of sustainable valorisation of cultural and natural heritage of the region.

Climate change is repeatedly identified as a main driving force and a specific challenge for the Alps in the ASP 2014-2020. However, climate change adaptation is not addressed as an objective per se, but as a horizontal theme and an issue to be mainstreamed in every project. Climate change adaptation as a cross-cutting issue is explicitly mentioned in several themes, including biodiversity, ecosystem services, risk prevention, ecological connectivity, and use of natural resources, under priority 3 ‘Liveable Alpine Space’, which targets environmental protection and resource efficiency.

The Alpine Space programme supports the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region process, including its Action Group 8 on risk management and climate adaptation, specifically by granting project-based funding for its governance structure through the running AlpGov project as well as by requiring regular project applications to address priorities and support activities of thematic EUSALP working bodies.

 

2.    Macro-region strategies

The EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP) is based on a joint initiative of Alpine states and regions to strengthen cooperation between them and to address common challenges in a more effective way. It involves seven countries (Austria, France, Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Liechtenstein and Switzerland) and 48 regions and covers a slightly larger area than the ASP one. EUSALP aims at addressing Alpine-specific challenges, such as the balancing of development and environmental protection, the enhancement of competitiveness, and the reduction of territorial disparities.

Adaptation is one of two core topics within EUSALP AG8 (Action Group on Risk Governance), which common objective of the current medium-term work plan (up to mid-2019) is to map, analyse and enhance governance mechanisms in the fields of natural hazard management and adaptation to climate change, including enhanced coherence between both policy fields. The planned outputs are studies, good practice examples and policy enhancement options on risk governance, adaptation governance, and mainstreaming of climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction, aiming at paving the way for more effective and better aligned governance approaches in the Alpine macro-region. A further goal of AG8 is to deploy, advance and maintain the transnational online portal CAPA - Climate Adaptation Platform for the Alps (developed within the Alpine Space project C3-Alps in the programming period 2007-2013).

The EUSALP Action Plan encourages, among others, the development of an Alpine adaptation strategy and action plan based on a comprehensive vulnerability assessment and in line with the existing national adaptation strategies, but this recommendation has not yet been taken up. Climate change impacts and adaptation are also linked to the themes of ecological connectivity and natural resources, including water and soil management, and cross-sectoral issues related to adaptation (e.g. green infrastructure, droughts, water demand and supply management) are to some extent addressed by the activities of corresponding Action Groups.

Some areas of the Alpine region overlap with other macro-regions that may have relevant information in their strategies. These are the Danube macro-region and the Adriatic –Ionian macro-region.

 

3.    International conventions and other cooperation initiatives

The Alpine Convention (1991) is an international treaty between the Alpine Countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland) and the EU (signed in 1991) for the sustainable development and protection of the Alps. The ultimate goal of the Alpine Convention is to develop the common heritage of the Alps and preserve it for future generations through transnational cooperation involving national, regional and local authorities.

Sectoral objectives and measures are specified in eight protocols. Although there is not a thematic protocol on climate change, climate change and adaptation have for years been a field of work within the Alpine Convention. The Alpine Conference adopted a Declaration on Climate Change in 2006, further concretized in the Climate Change Action Plan adopted in 2009, addressing both mitigation and adaptation. Moreover, taking action on climate change is one of 6 priorities of the Multi-annual work programme 2017-2022. The Contracting Parties, the observers, and the thematic working bodies of the Convention are regularly working on cross-sectoral aspects of adaptation and have produced a range of specific transnational outputs, including statements and guidelines, workshops, and experimentation projects, often contributing to implementation of actions laid down in the Climate Action Plan. The Alpine Climate Board (ACB) was established in 2016 and is currently elaborating proposals for an Alpine-wide Climate Target System. The Convention has a well-established transnational observer network that comprises a large number of relevant governmental and non-governmental umbrella organisations active in the Alpine Convention’s fields of activity, including climate adaptation.

 

4.    Adaptation strategies and plans

The Alpine Convention’s Action Plan on Climate Change in the Alps is to date the only politically relevant transnational policy document on adaptation in place in the Alpine region. It covers both adaptation and mitigation and has been adopted by political resolution, but it has no legally binding status. Some of its recommendations for action have been taken up by the mandates of several of the Convention’s thematic working bodies.

Established by the Alpine Conference in 2016 to bundle together relevant climate change activities carried out in the framework of the Alpine Convention, the Alpine Climate Board is currently working on a system of objectives for climate-neutral and climate-resilient Alps. The Climate Target System along with recommendations shall be submitted for adoption to the XV Alpine Conference to be held in April 2019. It is expected that future activities under the climate change priority of the multi-annual work programme 2017-2022 will focus on implementing these targets. For that purpose, design of the target system shall allow monitoring and evaluation of progress at least in qualitative terms.

 

Examples of projects funded in the 2014–2020 period

The Alpine Space can rely on a wide experience of transnational cooperation projects dealing with knowledge creation and sharing on climate change adaptation funded in the previous INTERREG programming period 2007-2013, as for examples in the case of CLISP, AdaptAlp or C3-Alps projects. In the current ASP 2014-2020, the only project directly dealing with climate change adaptation as a stand-alone topic is GoApply (Multidimensional governance of climate adaptation in policy-making and practice) (2016-2019). The project idea and the partnership evolved directly from the transnational policy maker network initiated by C3-Alps. Tackling adaptation barriers in the Alpine countries related to multilevel governance challenges, GoApply aims at improving the vertical implementation of national adaptation policies across levels, supporting the horizontal integration of adaptation into sectors and strengthening governance capacities of public and non-public actors by developing governance enhancement options and innovations.

Apart from the INTERREG Alpine Space Programme, the Alpine Convention and bodies of the EUSALP are contributing to transnational knowledge creation and transfer on adaptation. Prominent examples of work results of the Alpine Convention include the ‘Alpine strategy for adaptation to climate change in the field of natural hazards’ (2013), ‘Guidelines for climate change adaptation at the local level in the Alps’ (2014), and a ‘Synthesis report Stock-taking as basis for defining activities of the Alpine Climate Board’ (2017).