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North Sea

Region's countries

The cooperation area of the North Sea Region (NSR) includes territories of Northern Europe that are closed to the North Sea. All participating regions are adjacent to marine waters and many of them are coastal regions. The cooperation area of the 2021-2027 Interreg Programme stretches from coastal regions of Northern France to the Southern parts of Norway and selected regions of Sweden. Compared to the previous programming period (2014-2020), major changes are:  the exclusion of the whole United Kingdom* and of the northernmost counties of Norway (the latter are now included in the Northern Periphery and Arctic region), the inclusion of France as a new country partner, and the extension to the whole territory of the Netherlands and of Flanders. 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

To support EU-level policies, address regional challenges and strengths, and take lessons learned from the previous programming period on board, the Interreg VI B North Sea programme (2021-2027) is based on four thematic priorities:

  • Priority 1: Robust and smart economies in the North Sea region
  • Priority 2: A green transition in the North Sea
  • Priority 3: A climate resilient North Sea region
  • Priority 4: Better governance in the North Sea region

Climate change adaptation is especially addressed under the priority 3. It aims at developing a long-term perspective to preserve the natural environment of the North Sea region and to protect societies from the adverse impact of climate change. Projects under this priority will contribute to climate change adaptation practices, especially to achieve the specific objective (SO) 3.1: “Promoting climate change adaptation and disaster risk prevention, resilience, taking into account ecosystem based approaches”. Climate change adaptation is considered strictly related to sustainable water management in the North Sea region.  Both issues need to be jointly addressed by the North Sea Programme.

The previous programme (2014-2020) had already acknowledged climate change as one of the most serious threats facing the NSR ecosystems. Climate change adaptation was explicitly considered within priority 3 (Sustainable North Sea Region). It supported, funding of projects that catalysed climate resilience in the region.

 

2.     International conventions and other cooperation initiatives

The OSPAR ‘Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic’ includes the Greater North Sea (Region II according to the OSPAR definition) which is part of the overall North-East Atlantic as defined by this Convention. Under the OSPAR convention, climate change (and ocean acidification) is addressed as a cross-cutting issue, aiming at increasing ecosystem resilience. It includes terms of knowledge generation, monitoring of impacts and design of management options.,

A cooperation initiative for the protection of the Wadden Sea has been developed between the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. The Wadden Sea is an area along the North Sea coasts of the three countries, which is includes a wide tidal area hosting characteristic natural habitat. The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation is based on a declaration of intent, the ‘Joint Declaration on the Protection of the Wadden Sea (Working together to meet present and future challenges), which was first signed in 1982, and updated in 2010. The objectives and areas of cooperation include the ‘Adaptability to climate change and other impacts’. The Leeuwarden Declaration, signed in 2018, contains key points for the 2018-2022 period of the Trilateral Cooperation. It reinforces  the need to continue implementing the Trilateral Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and to better understand the impacts of climate change on the Wadden Sea ecosystem.

The North Sea Commission within the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions is a cooperation initiative that aims to promote and create awareness of the North Sea region as a major economic entity within Europe. It is a platform for developing and obtaining funding for joint development initiatives and lobbies for a better North Sea region. The Energy and Climate change working group supports the NSC Executive Committee in implementing the Climate Neutral North Sea Region priority area of the North Sea Region 2030 Strategy. The group also addresses climate change adaptation towards the 2030 goal of “climate ready, adaptable and resilient to climate change” North Sea Region. The group adopted the ‘Climate Change Adaptation and North Sea Commission’ report (2020) with a more detailed description on how to reach a state of climate resilience in the North Sea Region.

 

3.     Adaptation strategies and plans

The North Sea Commission (NSC) within the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) developed the North Sea Region 2030 Strategy  that has replaced the previous 2020 Strategy. Within the priority “A climate neutral north sea region”, the Strategy identifies climate change adaptation among the key topics to achieve the vision of a (climate) resilient and adapted North Sea region. The strategy encourages the intensification of efforts on climate change adaptation across local, regional and national levels. Under this topic, NSC members will share funding, project opportunities, and best practices fostering a socially fair and just transition. The strategy is implemented by the NSC Executive Committee. It is supported by the NSC thematic working groups through biannual Action Plans.

In 2014, the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation has adopted a trilateral Climate Change Adaptation Strategy (CCAS) with seven strategic objectives and guiding principles. The strategy aims to enhance the resilience of the Wadden Sea ecosystem to the impacts of climate change. The Task Group Climate (TG-C) was assigned to monitor the implementation of the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. The strategy’s implementation was evaluated in a CCAS monitoring report in 2017. It revealed that the seven principles are being applied in a wide range of projects and policies in the trilateral Wadden Sea Area.

Under the OSPAR convention, the North-East Atlantic Environment Strategy (NEAES) 2030 was adopted in 2021, based on a high-level review of OSPAR's previous strategy for the decade 2010-2020. 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, used sustainably 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 on an implementation plan that contains specific tasks to achieve the strategies’ objectives.

 

Examples of projects funded in the 2014–2020 period.

Projects dealing with climate change were mainly funded under Priority 3 of the 2014-2020 North Sea programme (Sustainable North Sea Region: Protecting against climate change and preserving the environment).  They are mainly addressed to the issues of coastal resilience to erosion and flooding, water sensitive urban design, and sustainable water management with focus on pilots, demonstrations and trials.

The BwN (Building with Nature) project (2015-2020) aimed to make coasts, estuaries and catchments of the North Sea region more adaptable and resilient to the effects of climate change by using nature-based solutions (NbS). NbS are being implemented at seven coastal sites (for example sand nourishment at North Sea coasts and Wadden Sea barrier islands) and at six catchment sites (for instance dealing with river restoration). The BwN project uses these living laboratories as examples for creating an evidence base for selecting sites, designing measures and calculating the costs, benefits and effectiveness of nature-based measures with a view to ultimately generating business cases. The Common Wadden Sea Secretariat  was a partner in the Building with Nature project and ensured the knowledge exchange between the trilateral Task Group Climate (TG-C) and project partners. To support the evidence base for best practices for Building with Nature activities, a Wadden Sea Climate Change Adaptation Information Platform has been developed. It includes trilateral policy and management, best practices, monitoring and assessment, and activities in communication and education

The FAIR (Flood infrastructure Asset management and Investment in Renovation, adaptation and maintenance) (2015-2020) project aimed to reduce flood risk across the North Sea region by demonstrating climate change adaptation solutions to improve the performance of flood protection infrastructure. FAIR provided improved approaches for cost-effective upgrading and maintenance of such infrastructure, optimising investments, as well as applying adaptive and innovative technical designs. The project developed adaptation solutions for dykes, sluices, dams and flood gates at selected sites in Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and The Netherlands.

The FRAMES (Flood resilient areas by multi-layer safety) project (2016-2020) aimed to increase the resilience of regions and communities by working with the Multi-Layer Safety (MLS) concept. Different ‘layers’ of resilience (prevention, spatial adaptation, emergency response and recovery) are integrated to result in: (1) flood resilient areas (improved infrastructure and spatial planning measures), (2) flood resilient communities (better prepared inhabitants and societal stakeholders) and (3) flood resilient authorities (reduced recovery times and increased response capacity). The project worked on 16 pilot areas through a transnational learning evaluation approach. It allowed generating new insights to support future decision making and showing innovative solutions to improve society’s ability to cope with flooding. The main results of the project can be found in the FRAMES Wiki website.

The CATCH (Water sensitive Cities: the Answer To CHallenges of extreme weather events) project (2016-2020) aimed to demonstrate and accelerate the redesign of urban water management of midsize cities in the North Sea Region. It assisted those cities to become climate resilient being  sustainable, liveable, and profitable on the long term. The project tested urban climate adaptation measures in seven pilot cities  to develop the CATCH decision support tool for midsize cities. The decision support tool is composed of a self-assessment component and of an adaptation cycle component. It also includes examples and good practices from cities that developed climate adaptation strategies.

The BEGIN (Blue Green Infrastructures through Social Innovation, 2017-2020) project aimed to demonstrate at selected sites how cities can improve climate resilience with Blue Green Infrastructure. The approach covered involving stakeholders in a value-based decision- making process to overcome its current implementation barriers. The ten pilot cities, showcase through the “Blue-Green Cities in the spotlight” series the multiple benefits of Blue-Green Infrastructure for European cities. Those multiple benefits include reduced flood risk, enhanced biodiversity, and improved liveability.

The TOPSOIL (Top soil and water – The climate challenge in the near subsurface) project (2015-2020) explored the possibilities of using the topsoil layers to solve current and future water challenges in the North Sea region. The project looked at the groundwater and soil conditions, predicted and found solutions for climate-related threats, like flooding during wet periods and drought during warmer seasons. The overall objective was the joint development of methods to describe and manage the uppermost layer of the subsurface as a way to improve its climate resilience. The project demonstrated a practical implementation of solutions in 16 case studies.

The results of all above projects are capitalised in the C5a project (Cluster for Cloud to Coast Climate Change Adaptation, 2019-2021). The project recognised the urgent need for flood management approaches in the North Sea Region to keep people safe, the environment healthy and economies prosperous. The project aimed to develop a cloud-to-coast approach for the management of flood risks. The approach is based on early management of floods that starts from the moment the rain falls and before coastal areas are impacted. The approach maximises the value of investments in physical flood protection and builds resilience in flood-prone areas. The approach was tested in seven case studies of the North Sea Region.