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Alpine Space

Region's countries

The cooperation area of the Alpine Space programme covers the Alps and their surrounding lowlands, connecting very distinct regions that include the whole area of Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein and Slovenia, western parts of France, southern parts of Germany and northern regions of Italy. The cooperation area of the 2021-2027 Interreg Programme embraces the whole area of 2014-2020 Interreg programme with additional seven regions from Germany. A map comparing the old and new borders can be seen here.

 

Policy framework

1.     Transnational cooperation programme

The 2021-2027 Interreg Alpine Space Programme (as adopted by the EU Commission on 5 May 2022) aims to foster the integration of sustainable economic development, societal wellbeing and the preservation of its outstanding nature. It supports cooperation projects across borders and facilitate joint trans-national solutions.

The Programme sets four priorities:

  • Priority 1: Climate resilient and green Alpine region
  • Priority 2 Carbon neutral and resource sensitive Alpine Region
  • Priority 3 Innovation and digitalisation supporting a green Alpine Region
  • Priority 4 Cooperatively managed and developed Alpine Region

Climate change is repeatedly identified as a main driving force and a specific challenge for the Alps. Climate change adaptation is the target addressed by Priority 1, within the specific objective: “Promoting climate change adaptation and disaster risk prevention, and resilience, taking into account eco-system based approaches”. The programme supports the promotion of climate change adaptation-measures focusing on the inter-relations between the natural, economic and societal systems in the Alpine region. In detail the programme promotes: (1) solutions and pilots for preparedness and adaptation, (2) solutions and pilots to bridge the gap between climate research and practical implementation, (3) knowledge transfer initiatives, and (4) methodologies and tools to measure and monitor the specific impacts of climate change. The programme also supports actions for risk prevention and disaster resilience that are strongly interrelated with climate change.

The coherence between this programme and the EUSALP strategy goals are strengthened to support the path towards a carbon neutral and climate resilient territory. Under Priority 4, the Programme aims to “Enhance institutional capacity of public authorities and stakeholders to implement macro-regional strategies and sea-basin strategies, as well as other territorial strategies”. In this regard, the programme supports the development and implementation of “solutions to enhance cooperation and organisation processes within the EUSALP governance structure”.

For the 2014-2020 period (INTERREG V B), climate change, though identified as a main driving force and a specific challenge for the Alps, was not covered by specific objectives, but as a horizontal theme and as an issue to be mainstreamed in every project. Climate change adaptation as a cross-cutting issue was explicitly mentioned under priority 3 ‘Liveable Alpine Space’, aimed at improving environmental protection and resource efficiency. The 2014-2020 programme also supported the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region process, including its Action Group 8 on risk management and climate adaptation. It provided funding for its governance structure through the 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 the 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. It 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 the Action Group 8 (Action Group on Risk Governance). The common objective of its 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. Those outputs aim at paving the way for more effective and better aligned governance approaches in the Alpine macro-region. A further goal of the Action Group is to deploy, advance and maintain the transnational online portal CAPA - Climate Adaptation Platform for the Alps. In the period 2016-2019 and 2020-2022, CAPA has been financed by the Interreg Alpine Space project AlpGov 1 and AlpGov 2 (Implementing Alpine Governance Mechanisms of the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region).

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. Climate change impacts and adaptation are also linked to the themes of ecological connectivity and natural resources, including water and soil management. 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, adopted in 1991, is an international treaty between the Alpine Countries (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland) and the EU 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.

Under the Alpine Convention, the (2019) Declaration ‘Climate-neutral and Climate-resilient Alps 2050’ (Declaration of Innsbruck) reaffirms the objective to work towards climate-neutrality and climate-resilience of the Alps until 2050 in line with European and international provisions. Moreover, taking action on climate change is one of 6 priorities of the Multi-annual work programme 2017-2022. The Contracting Parties, observers, and the thematic working bodies of the Convention are regularly working on cross-sectoral aspects of adaptation. They have produced a range of specific transnational level outputs, including statements and guidelines, workshops, and experimentation projects, often contributing to the implementation of actions laid down in the Climate Action Plan. The Alpine Climate Board (ACB) was established in 2016 within the framework of the Convention and developed the Alpine Climate Target System 2050 and the Climate Action Plan 2.0. This plan has the overall objective of transforming the Alps into a climate-neutral and climate-resilient region (see below the section on adaptation strategies and plans).

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 change adaptation.

The Alpine Convention and bodies of the EUSALP are contributing to transnational adaptation knowledge creation and transfer. 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), a ‘Synthesis report Stock-taking as basis for defining activities of the Alpine Climate Board (2017, updated in 2019), the Report ‘Facing droughts in the Alpine region. Experiences, approaches and common challenges’ (2018) and the 7th Report on the State of the Alps: Natural Hazard Risk Governance (2019).

 

4.      Adaptation strategies and plans

The Alpine Climate Target System 2050 was elaborated by the Alpine Climate Board (ACB) and adopted by the XV Alpine Conference in 2019. It identifies concrete targets in ten different sectors of activity of the Alpine Convention and in two transversal/horizontal fields of action. It enhances the added value of alpine-wide cooperation on climate change mitigation and adaptation, through an integrated approach. Within this framework, the ACB updated the Climate Action Plan (initially developed in 2009) that covers both adaptation and mitigation. The new Climate Action Plan 2.0 prioritises specific measures to implement the Alpine Climate Target System 2050 focussing on the medium-term horizon (five to ten years). It proposes detailed implementation pathways for ten sectors, co-developed with stakeholders and with the thematic working bodies of the Alpine Convention. The ACB monitors the overall implementation of the pathways and communicates the achievements on a regular basis. A Community Platform (the Alpine Climate 2050) has been established ensuring the link between implementation and the objectives of the Climate target system 2050.

 

Examples of projects funded in the 2014–2020 period

The AlpGov2 project (2020-2022), funded by Interreg ALPS, enhances EUSALP’s governance structures and mechanisms considering all topics of its Action Plan, following up the previous AlpGov 1.

GoApply (Multidimensional governance of climate adaptation in policy-making and practice, 2016-2019) evolved directly from the transnational policy maker network, initiated by C3-Alps (2007-2013). GoApply responds to challenges, barriers and gaps related to multilevel governance that all Alpine countries are currently facing in their efforts to put their national adaptation strategies into practice. The project aimed to strengthen capacities for the governance and implementation of climate adaptation across multiple levels and sectors. The results are delivered in country reports (Austria, Germany, Italy, Switzerland) and compiled in a transnational synthesis report. The report presents a knowledge base for enhanced Alpine multilevel adaptation governance and a portfolio of success factors, barriers, lessons learnt, good practice examples, and enhancement options.

ALPTREES (Sustainable use and management of non-native trees in the alpine region, 2019-2022) helps to strengthen the sustainable use of natural resources by predicting the current and potential distribution of non-native trees under climate change scenarios. The project is expected to deliver technical guidelines for climate change adaptation decision-making tools and planning to safeguard the future of green infrastructure, biodiversity functions and ecosystem services in the entire EUSALP territory.

The Alpine Space can also rely on a wide experience of transnational cooperation projects dealing with climate change adaptation that were funded in the previous INTERREG programming period 2007-2013, as for examples in the case of CLISPAdaptAlp or C3-Alps projects.