Transnational cooperation in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in Europe: challenges, gaps and lesson learned

16:15 Wednesday 29 May


Room S5


Sergio Castellari (Denmark) 1; Emiliano Ramieri (Italy) 2

1 - European Environment Agency (EEA); 2 - Thetis

This Session provides an overview and analysis of the actions on climate change adaptation (CCA) and disaster risk reduction (DRR) promoted in 12 European transnational regions, as defined for the European Territorial Cooperation (ETC), by considering:

  • INTERREG cooperation programmes (in particular INTERREG B);
  • EU macro-regional strategies;
  • International Conventions;
  • Other cooperation initiatives;
  • Strategies and plans on CCA actually promoted within the 12 transnational regions;
  • Projects and other knowledge sharing initiatives (including scientific networks).

Territories belonging to the same transnational region are characterized by common economic, social and environmental characteristics and tend to share common climate change challenges. The analysis of cooperation initiatives on CCA and DRR through the lens of these 12 transnational regions appears particularly appropriate as they provide a commonly accepted spatial subdivision of the European territory in the frame of the Cohesion Policy. Some of the transnational regions partially or totally overlap with EU macro-regional strategies and/or other relevant cooperation initiatives, such as sea and territorial conventions; these can  – and indeed are expected to – integrate and even enhance the role on CCA and DRR cooperation played by the ETC. While macro-regional strategies have so far been established only for four transnational regions, the current ETC programme has established funding programmes for all the 12 transnational regions as part of the three pillars of the EU’s economic, social and territorial development as pursued by the Cohesion Policy (CP).

On the other side, commonality of environmental and climate problems across borders or within a common geographic space sharing vulnerable environmental resources, like a river or sea basin, are driving member states to new forms of cross-border and transnational aggregation.

Furthermore, in the European context, these EU transnational regions and macro-regional strategies are consolidating in some cases a new layer of multi-level governance in which the EU attempts, from different angles and levels of aggregation, to involve sub-national units of government in addressing shared challenges and opportunities across member states, including those related to CCA and DRR, by creating a mix of institutional design which is capable of “integrating top-down and bottom-up initiatives, as well as normative and regulatory institutional guiding elements” (Van Well and Scherbenske, 2014).

Target audience

The session aims to discuss the role that transnational cooperation plays in improving CCA and DRR and it is therefore expected to be of interest for decision-makers and experts working in the frame of cooperation organisations and mechanisms (funding programmes, conventions, macro-regional strategies, cooperation networks, etc.). It will also identify strengths and weaknesses of such cooperation initiatives, attracting the interest of the research and consultancy community, which can work to fulfil current gaps. Finally, it is also expected to be of interest of NGOs considering the relevant role they play in supporting cooperation on CCA and DRR.

Proposed format for the session

This session is introduced by:

1. Setting the scene – Sergio Castellari (European Environment Agency, 5 m)

Then it continues with talks from EU cooperation programmes, macroregional strategies, other cooperation initiatives and scientific networks relevant in the transnational regions in Europe, notably:

2. Interreg Climate Change and Risks Network: how cooperation projects contribute to climate change adaptation – Manuel Gonzalez Evangelista (project manager, Interact Programme, 15 m)

3. CCA and DRR in the frame of the EU Strategy of Baltic Sea Region – Nina Jernberg (Council of the Baltic Sea States, Coordinator of Policy Area Secure, EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region, 15 m)

4.  The experience of the Alpine Convention: joining forces towards climate-resilient Alps – Wolfgang Lexer (Environment Agency Austria, Member of the Alpine Climate Board, 15 m)

5. MedECC, a science-policy interface on risks associated to climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean region – Katarzyna Marini (MedECC, 15 m)

6. The final presentation Adaptation policies and knowledge base in transnational regions in Europe – Emiliano Ramieri (ETCCCA and Thetis, 15 m) presents a study performed with EEA.

The Session ends with a Panel Discussion (all speakers) and Audience Discussion moderated by Sergio Castellari (25 m).

Contributing Authors abstracts

1. Sergio Castellari, European Environment Agency – Setting the scene

Climate change policies require, in different geographic contexts, also transnational policy initiatives and forms of governance, which involve different levels of (regional, local) government while often transcending the national governance level. The European Union (EU) Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, aiming at making Europe more climate-resilient, recalls the relevant role that transnational (as well as cross-border and interregional) programmes, co-financed by the Cohesion or Regional Policy, play in promoting cooperation projects on CCA, including those developed in the frame of the EU macro-regional strategies. Furthermore, Climate-ADAPT platform supports cooperation across European countries and regions, by aiming to foster exchange of knowledge and experiences and supporting the setting-up of transnational governance structures to jointly cope with common challenge. Both similarity of environmental and climate problems (climate change impacts across borders) and the need to manage shared vulnerable environmental resources can be seen as strong drivers for cross-border and transnational actions. During the last years, specific CCA strategies in EU transnational regions and EU macro-regional strategies are emerging as useful governance structures to address the challenges posed from climate change.

2. Manuel Gonzalez Evangelista, Interact Programme: Interreg Climate Change and Risks Network – how cooperation projects contribute to climate change adaptation

European Territorial Cooperation (Interreg) programmes have plenty of valuable achievements in the field of combating climate change. Projects’ outputs offer an excellent foundation for coordinated and concrete improvements in the field within and beyond Interreg. The potential for universal applicability of Interreg approaches and results can lead to improvement of climate policies related to the European Fund for Strategic Investment, LIFE programme, water policies, agriculture policies, urban policies and others. Experience from the current approach to climate main-streaming, and the implications of the Paris Agreement will need to be taken into account in the design of the next programming period, when programmes will need to adapt and learn how to stimulate projects which respond to the real need for thematic knowledge capitalisation. The Climate Change and Risks network can show how the Interreg programmes contribute to resolution of a problem which no one country or programme can tackle on its own.

3. Nina Jernberg, Council of the Baltic Sea States, Coordinator of Policy Area Secure, EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region – CCA and DRR in the frame of the EU Strategy of Baltic Sea Region

The Baltic Sea Region (BSR) provides examples on strategic macroregional cross-sectoral cooperation in CCA and DRR. A resilient macro-region depends on sound risk assessment in each country. In the scope of Policy Area Secure in the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR), Project 14.3 (2012) anticipated possible disasters (e.g. floods, fires, nuclear accidents) through scenarios, and ‘From Gaps to Caps’ investigated the BSR countries’ capability to deal with them. The analysis of the results from these initiatives identified a missing dimension – climate change risks. In 2016, two areas in the EUSBSR, Policy Area Secure and Horizontal Action Climate, teamed up to address the identified gap and the CASCADE initiative was developed with stakeholders from both areas. CASCADE (2019) aims to add the missing dimension and the climate adaptation expertise to the risk assessment methodologies, and tailor them to the local level. In 2017, the Directors General for Civil Protection, from all countries in the BSR adopted a position paper calling out for the need to increase cooperation in certain areas. One area highlighted was to combine the efforts in the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction – this provided further impetus for the CASCADE initiative.

4. Wolfgang Lexer, Environment Agency Austria, Member of the Alpine Climate Board – The experience of the Alpine Convention: joining forces towards climate-resilient Alps

Since the signature of the Alpine Convention in 1991, the eight Alpine countries and the EU have been working together for the protection and sustainable development of the Alps. Similar to other mountain ranges in the world, the Alps are particularly hit by climate change: temperatures here have been rising about twice as fast as the northern hemisphere average. The Contracting Parties to the Alpine Convention adopted in 2006 a Declaration on Climate Change, complemented in 2009 by an Action Plan on Climate Change in the Alps. There followed an array of transnational activities with climate relevance in many sectors, such as natural hazards, water management, ecological connectivity or competence-building in CCA for local actors. In 2017, the Alpine Climate Board was established to bundle relevant climate change activities. The results of the stock-taking carried out will be presented, with focus on CCA and including experiences from Interreg Alpine Space projects; an insight will be given into the Climate Target System of the Alpine Convention, i.e. the strategy towards climate-resilient and climate-neutral Alps in 2050 prepared by the Alpine Climate Board.

5. Katarzyna Marini, Mediterranean Experts on Climate and environmental Change (MedECC) – MedECC, a science-policy interface on risks associated to climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean region 

The network of Mediterranean Experts on Climate and environmental Change (MedECC) is an open and independent international network established in 2015 and currently involving more than 400 scientific experts. The aim is to gather, update and consolidate the best scientific knowledge on climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean region and render it accessible to policy-makers and key stakeholders in order to facilitate decision-making in the face of the risks. The dialogue between scientists and decision-makers is facilitated by several partners, in particular the Secretariat of the Union for the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean Action Plan of the United Nations Environment Programme through its Plan Bleu Regional Activity Center, which support the MedECC in the framework of their agreement. A few scientists representing the MedECC network have published recently the first synthesis of multiple changes in the environment that impact the livelihoods of people in the entire Mediterranean Basin (Cramer et al. 2018). MedECC currently works on the first MedECC Assessment Report (MAR1) on the current state and risks of climate and environmental changes in the Mediterranean. Its publication is planned for the beginning of 2020.

6. Emiliano Ramieri, ETC/CCA-Thetis – Adaptation policies and knowledge base in transnational regions in Europe 

CCA and DRR are among the most relevant issues addressed by transnational cooperation initiatives, as they not only share common economic, social and environmental characteristics but also tend to approach common climate change challenges. Cooperative solutions are therefore needed to improve adaptation capacity and resilience at the regional level. A significant variety of cooperation mechanisms are put in place to improve cooperation in general and specifically on CCA and DRR, including: INTERREG cooperation programmes, EU-macro-regional strategies, land and sea-based conventions, other formalised cooperation initiatives, informal networks, etc. The presentation will reflect on the role of such cooperation initiatives in fostering CCA and DRR, considering also the (few) existing examples of transnational adaptation strategies and/or plan. Knowledge creation and sharing at the transnational level through projects, platforms and centres will be also discussed, highlighting its relevant role in underpinning decision-making and practice development.