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Atlantic Area

Region's countries

The Atlantic cooperation area covers countries of the western part of Europe bordering the Atlantic Ocean. The 2021-2027 cooperation area embraces the territory of the previous Interreg Programme (coastal regions of Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland, the autonomous community of Canary Islands), except for the United Kingdom*. Moreover it includes two additional regions of Spain (Andalusia and la Rioja). A map comparing the old and new borders can be seen here.

 

* From the entry into force of the UK Withdrawal Agreement on 1 February 2020, content from the United Kingdom will no longer be updated on this website.

 

Policy framework

1.    Transnational cooperation programme

The Interreg VI B Atlantic Area Programme (2021-2027), formally approved by the European Commission on the 8th of September 2022, renews the commitment with the Atlantic regions in the support of innovative initiatives that contribute to the growth of this area, solving common challenges across border through the implementation of joint actions, exchange of good practices and contribution to new or current policies. It establishes four priorities:

  1. Blue innovation and competitiveness (“Smarter Europe”)
  2. Blue and green environment (“Greener Europe”)
  3. Blue sustainable tourism and culture (“Social Europe”)
  4. A better governance for cooperation (“Interreg objective”)

Climate change adaptation is specifically considered under Priority 2 and with the specific objective: “Promoting climate change adaptation and disaster risk prevention, resilience taking into account eco-system based approaches”. The Specific objective also contributes to the Atlantic sea basin strategy by supporting the actions included in Pillar IV of the Atlantic Action Plan 2.0 (see Section 2 of this page, Macro-regions strategies). The programme is expected to lead to an increased capacity to identify, prevent and manage risks with a better involvement of citizens and public authorities and a strengthened governance framework. Considering that the cooperation area has a large percentage of coastal and near-shore territory, the programme has a special focus on coastal and maritime risks, with actions to reinforce coastal resilience and innovation of blue economy. Indeed, adaptation is also achieved through Priority 1 (blue innovation and competitiveness) by enhancing innovation capacity and digitalisation. Moreover, climate change adaptation is also mentioned in Priority 3 (to develop blue sustainable tourism) and Priority 4, as cross-cutting issue since adaptation is likely to benefit from multi-level governance and transnational approaches.

The previous Interreg V B Atlantic Area Programme (2014-2020) was aimed to implement solutions to regional challenges in the fields of innovation, resource efficiency, environment and cultural assets, to enable a better quality of life to be generated in the Atlantic Area territory.

Climate change adaptation was covered in priority 3 (stimulating innovation and competitiveness) and the related objective 3.1 ‘Strengthening risks management systems’. Results achieved by the Programme included improved cooperation contributing to reduce risks and their impacts and to reinforce the safety of the population and the environment, by strengthening the resilience and planning capacity of Atlantic regions at local and regional levels.

 

2.     Macro-region strategies

Although a real macro-regional strategy has not been developed, the Maritime Strategy for the Atlantic Ocean Area  acts as a framework for transnational economic and social cooperation. The Strategy covers the coasts, territorial and jurisdictional waters of the EU Member States with an Atlantic coastline, their outermost territories as well as international waters. The 2013 – 2020 Atlantic Action Plan, accompanying the Strategy, underwent a mid-term review in 2017 that led to the adoption of a revised Atlantic Action Plan 2.0. Its main objective is to unlock the potential of blue economy in the Atlantic area while preserving marine ecosystems and contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation. The Action Plan recognises that the Blue Economy can contribute to alleviating climate change by promoting nature-based solutions and improving the sustainable use of aquatic and marine resources. Climate change adaptation is specifically addressed by Pillar 2 of the Action Plan: ‘Healthy Ocean and Resilient Coasts’ and by Goal 6: ‘Stronger coastal resilience’.

The Atlantic Arc Commission under the Conference of the Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) covers most of the regions participating in the Atlantic Area. The work in the Atlantic Arc Commission fosters coordination between European, national and regional levels, favouring implementation of European policies in the Atlantic Arc area. The Atlantic Strategy Task Force of the Commission influences the strategic orientation of the Maritime Strategy of the Atlantic area, monitors its implementation in the territories and contributes to the revision of its Action Plan.

The Task Force on the Exploration of an Atlantic Macro Region provides a place for Atlantic Regions to explore the opportunities of adopting a Macro-Regional Strategy in the Atlantic. The need for incentivizing the sustainability dimension on adaptation measures in the Atlantic region, especially in coastal territories, where risks are prevalent, is highlighted in the 2021 political declaration approved by the Atlantic Arc Commission Member Regions.

 

3.     International conventions and other cooperation initiatives

The OSPAR ‘Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic’ covers a wider area than the EU Atlantic Area transnational region, including, further to three Atlantic regions (Celtic Seas, Bay of Biscay and Iberian Coast, and Wider Atlantic), also other two regions: Arctic Waters and the Greater North Sea. Fifteen Governments of the North-East Atlantic and the EU are part of the OSPAR Convention. Under the framework of the OSPAR convention, climate change (and ocean acidification) is addressed as a cross-cutting issue in terms of knowledge generation, monitoring of impacts and design of management options, aiming at increasing ecosystem resilience. In 2019, OSPAR established an Intersessional Correspondence Group on ocean acidification (ICG-OA).

 

4.      Adaptation strategies and plans

The North-East Atlantic Environment Strategy (NEAES) 2030 for the decade 2010-2030 was adopted on 1 October 2021 by a high-level review of OSPAR's previous strategy. Though it is not a climate change adaptation strategy, the strategy’s vision is to achieve a clean, healthy and biologically diverse North-East Atlantic Ocean, which is productive, sustainably used and resilient to climate change and ocean acidification. Four strategic objectives deal with climate change, addressing the topic of resilience (strategic objective 5), awareness (strategic objective 10), adaptation (strategic objective 11) and mitigation (strategic objective 12). Contracting Parties have agreed to put the NEAES 2030 Strategy into effect through an implementation plan. The implementation plan is complemented by the OSPAR Measures and Actions Programme (MAP), an overarching and integrative instrument to support planning and development and to track progress in implementing measures and actions. To make seas resilient to climate change and ocean acidification, OSPAR will implement several initiatives to monitor, assess and respond to the current and projected impacts, also developing a regional approach to applying nature-based solutions for carbon storage and climate resilience.

 

5.     Examples of projects funded in the 2014–2020 period

Examples of projects funded by the Atlantic Area Programme 2014-2020 are reported below.

The MyCOAST  (Coordinated Atlantic Coastal Operational Oceanographic Observatory) project (2017-2021) has strengthened a transnational perspective for the coastal monitotoring and forecasting tools. The actions on data management are promoting open and free information sharing and interoperability between coastal observatories and the common European data systems (EMODnet, Copernicus INSTAC, SeaDataNet). Risk management tools were jointly developed and validated. Key actors involved in managing and preventing coastal risks supported this development together with key actors responsible for managing water quality issues and with those responsible for managing maritime safety and response to pollution incidents.

Furthermore, the project supports increasing awareness of these risks in the Atlantic Area, and assist identifying and promoting opportunities for the private sector, for instance related to aquaculture, shipping, and wind energy providers.

The PRIMROSE (Predicting risk and impact of harmful events on the aquaculture sector) project (2017-2020), provided knowledge for the management of risks. Those risks relate (inter alia) to climate hazards on the aquaculture sector, generating a system for transnational short to medium term risk forecast and a long-term assessment of climate impacts on harmful algal blooms and pathogens.  The project delivered a web portal which helps predicting the risk and impact of harmful algal bloom events, providing an important tool for Europe's aquaculture industry. The 10 project partners include academic research organizations in all five countries participating in the Atlantic Area Programme and representatives of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors in the UK and Spain. Although adaptation is not addressed explicitly, climate change is one of the pressures on marine ecosystems which is considered also in terms of challenge posed by invasive species.

The Risk-AquaSoil (Atlantic risk management plan in water and soil) project (2017-2019) aimed at defining a comprehensive management plan and joint initiative for climate risks related to soil and water to improve the resilience of the Atlantic rural areas. The management plan encompasses the design of early warning and diagnosis services. It also covers the development and testing of innovative strategies (pilot actions) for a better soil and water management considering the risks associated to climate change. Stakeholders and local communities were involved in training and capacity building activities,  in risk management and damage compensation systems.