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North Sea Region

Region's countries

Coastal areas around the North Sea region, that includes the entire territory of Denmark, the eastern parts of the United Kingdom, three provinces of the Flemish region of Belgium, the north-western regions of Germany, the northern and western parts of the Netherlands and the south-western area of Sweden, further to the entire territory of Norway as a non-EU partner.


Policy framework

1.    Transnational cooperation programme

The INTERREG V B North Sea Region (NSR) Programme aims to support development and foster sustained economic growth across the North Sea region. Furthermore, it helps enterprises, institutions, public administrations, NGOs and others to pool their expertise, share their experience and cooperate to develop realistic solutions to problems shared by organisations across the region. For the period 2014-2020 the NSR programme focuses on four priorities:

  1. Thinking growth;
  2. Eco-innovation;
  3. Sustainable North Sea region;
  4. Green transport and mobility.

During this period the programme is expected to:

  • Develop new or improve existing knowledge partnerships between businesses, knowledge institutions, public administrations and end users with a view to long-term cooperation on developing products and services. Enhance regional innovation supports the capacity to increase long-term innovation levels and supports smart specialisation strategies. Stimulate the public sector to generate innovation demand and innovative solutions for improving public service delivery;
  • Promote the development and adoption of products, services and processes to accelerate the greening of the NSR economy and reduce the environmental footprint of the regions around it;
  • Demonstrate new and/or improved methods for enhancing the climate resilience of target sites and develop new methods for a long-term sustainable management of NSR ecosystems;
  • Demonstrate innovative and/or improved transport and logistic solutions with potential to move large volumes of freight away from long-distance road transportation. Stimulate the take-up and application of green transport solutions for regional freight and personal transport.

The NSR Programme 2014-2020 acknowledges that the most serious threat facing the NSR ecosystems is climate change and highlights that climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives are needed to protect NSR countries. Climate change adaptation is explicitly mentioned under the key themes considered in the programme (Environment group – KT 2) and in the thematic objectives (TO05), investment priorities (IP5a) and intervention fields (087) under priority 3. In addition to the thematic orientation, the NSR Programme addresses three horizontal thematic aspects highlighted in EU regulations, including sustainable development. Furthermore, the programme highlights that the ultimate goal of some funded projects will be to stimulate more extensive adaptation investments, while others will focus on developing innovation in the public sector to address new challenges arising from climate change adaptation and reducing carbon emissions and resource use.


2.    International conventions and other cooperation initiatives

The OSPAR ‘Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic’ covers also the Greater North Sea (Region II according to 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 in terms of knowledge generation, monitoring of impacts and design of management options aiming at increasing ecosystem resilience.

A cooperation initiative has been developed between the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark for the protection of the Wadden Sea, an area of extended tidal flats along the North Sea coasts of the three countries involved. Cooperation is based on a declaration of intent, the ‘Joint Declaration on the Protection of the Wadden Sea’, which was first signed in 1982 and updated in 2010. The declaration defines the objectives and areas of the cooperation and the institutional and financial arrangements. The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation has proposed several activities focusing on climate change adaptation. 


3.    Adaptation strategies and plans

The North Sea Commission within the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (CPMR) developed the North Sea Region 2020 Strategy , which defines climate change adaptation as one of the key areas for strategic action. The strategy recognizes climate change risks for the regions, such as: sea-level rise, increased coastal flooding as well as an increase of the burden on the marine ecosystem through water warming, acidification and the influx of new species. As an integration of the undergoing process of developing national adaptation strategies and plans, the strategy calls for a “collaborative approach to address climate change in the common resource that is the North Sea”. Developing the knowledge base through joint research, sharing data, cross border studies, etc., will be paramount for the development of a common and innovative approach to adaptation and mitigation.

In 2014 the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation has adopted a trilateral strategy on increasing the resilience of the Wadden Sea to the impacts of climate change.


Examples of projects funded in the 2014–2020 period

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

The BwN (Building with Nature) project (2015-2020) aims 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 both at seven coastal sites (for example sand nourishment at North Sea coasts and Wadden Sea barrier islands) and six catchment sites (dealing e.g. 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 FAIR (Flood infrastructure Asset management and Investment in Renovation, adaptation and maintenance) (2015-2020) project aims to reduce flood risk across the North Sea region by demonstrating climate change adaptation solutions to improve the performance of flood protection infrastructure. FAIR aims to provide improved approaches for cost-effective upgrading and maintenance, optimising investments across national-system-asset levels, as well as applying adaptive and innovative technical designs. The project develops adaptation solutions for dykes, sluices, dams and flood gates at target sites in Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and The Netherlands.

The FRAMES (Flood resilient areas by multi-layer safety) project (2016-2020) aims to increase the resilience of areas 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 social stakeholders) and (3) flood resilient authorities (reduced recovery times and increased response capacity). The project works on 13 pilots in areas which are comparable from a geographic and demographic point-of-view, thus allowing for monitoring to generate new insights and solutions.

The CATCH (Water sensitive Cities: the Answer To CHallenges of extreme weather events) project (2016-2020) aims to demonstrate and accelerate the redesign of urban water management of mid-size cities in the North Sea region in order to become climate resilient. This will be achieved by the development of decision support tools that will support formulation of long-term climate adaptation strategies. The tools will be tested in the formulation, execution and evaluation of 7 pilots. These include NBS to improve the water storage capacity in heavy rainfall events and a traffic management system to re-route traffic in times of flooding.

The TOPSOIL (Top soil and water – The climate challenge in the near subsurface) project (2015-2020) explores the possibilities of using the topsoil layers to solve current and future water challenges in the North Sea region. The project looks beneath the surface of the ground at the groundwater and soil conditions, predicts and finds solutions for climate-related threats, like flooding during wet periods and drought during warmer seasons. The overall objective is the joint development of methods to describe and manage the uppermost 30 m of the subsurface as a way to improve its climate resilience. The project will demonstrate a practical implementation of solutions in 16 case studies.