Executive Summary

Overview of topicPublicationReport

Climate change overview

Climate change publicationClimate change report

Report presented by Jennifer McGuinn, Venelina Varbova and Dora Almassy

Capturing results

This study presents the analysis and key findings of the capitalisation exercise on seven climate change projects supported by the INTERREG IVC Programme. The term ‘capitalisation’ refers to the process of collecting and analysing the valuable, innovative and useful knowledge accumulated in the course of these seven projects, enabling the uptake of this knowledge by other regions and stakeholders.

The project team carried out extensive desk research based on the available documents for each project. This included the screening of project websites as well as progress reports, final reports (where available), and project deliverables, such as methodologies and tools, guidance documents, reports on good practices and implemented pilot actions, and final publications summarising key project results and policy messages.

Climate change as a policy issue

International action to mitigate climate change through global commitments to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) has been ongoing since 1992 through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The EU has set itself ambitious objectives for combating climate change. The EU climate and energy package requires the EU to cut GHG emissions by 20%, increase the share of renewables in energy consumption to 20%, and improve energy efficiency by 20% by 2020.

The European Commission is also taking action to strengthen climate change adaptation. The EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, adopted in April 2013, is a comprehensive response to the challenge at the EU level. In addition, climate change objectives (both mitigation and adaptation) have a special role in EU funding for the 2014–2020 period. The EC has proposed that, overall, 20% of the 2014–2020 EU budget should target climate change-related objectives. Various platforms and initiatives for cooperation on tackling climate change at regional and local levels have also been launched.

Agreement between Italian regions to prevent and reduce air pollution in the Po Valley: This initiative for combating air pollution includes the regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Valle D’Aosta, Friuli Venezia Giulia, the autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano, and the Republic and Canton of Ticino. The focus of the activities is on: harmonisation of measures targeting air pollution; a joint inventory for estimating emissions at municipal level; promotion of low-impact vehicles (methane, LPG, hybrids, electric, hydrogen, etc.); support for cleaner public transport through technological upgrading; definition of common mid-long term measures to reduce emissions; and, lobbying at national and EU levels for the creation of specific funding mechanisms.

The climate change challenge is of particular significance for regional and local authorities in the EU. Most of the natural resources (river basins, catchment areas, flood plains) and socio-economic systems (agriculture, tourism, urban structures) that are likely to be affected by climate change in the coming decades are unique to specific local and/or regional areas. Climate impacts and vulnerabilities as well as capacities for adaptation are therefore determined at local and regional levels, where detailed information and strategic action plans are required. While the climate and energy targets adopted by the EU are binding at national level, many of the actions to be taken in terms of behavioural change will be guided by local and regional policies and initiatives.

The cross-cutting nature of climate change is especially challenging for European regions and complicates climate change planning. Understanding both the causes and impacts of climate change is no simple task for policymakers and the public, who lack specialist knowledge. Building a case for action — by identifying benefits that outweigh the upfront costs — is therefore crucial. This means working with technical experts, researchers and academics in order to understand how the science behind climate change translates into socioeconomic impacts and to identify opportunities for action. There is huge potential for local and regional authorities to learn from one another about how climate change can be treated as a policy issue; how comprehensive and sectoral action planning can be carried out; what kind of information dissemination and awareness-raising techniques work well; and what concrete methods can be applied to assess vulnerabilities or the costs and benefits of GHG mitigation actions.

Identifying good practice

The present study analyses the seven climate change projects co-funded by the INTERREG IVC Programme. These projects have involved 78 partner regions from Europe, led by partners from six Member States. Six of the seven projects have been completed, and the other will continue until December 2014. Some of the projects focus more on climate change adaptation, addressing issues such as water scarcity and droughts, flood prevention, the adaptation of agriculture to climate change, and adaptation measures in urban, spatial and territorial planning. Others focus on the opportunities and challenges arising from the shift to a low-carbon economy, and on how effective planning can help regions to reduce GHG emissions and build their economies around less intensive energy use. A summary of the INTERREG IVC climate change projects is presented in Table 1.

Table 1: INTERREG IVC climate change projects
Green and Blue Space Adaptation for Urban Areas and Eco-towns (GRaBS)To ensure that existing and new mixed-use urban development is adapted to the impacts of climate change; and to improve local and regional planning policy by integrating green and blue infrastructure.14 partners from 8 countries, led by the Town and Country Planning Association (UK)
Forms for: Adapting to Climate Change through Territorial Strategies! (F:ACTS!)To create effective implementation capacity at regional and local levels for integrated territorial approaches that promote adaptation to climate change and its effects in peri-urban and rural areas.14 partners from 8 countries, led by the Government Service for Land and Water Management (DLG), the Netherlands
Regional cooperation towards Adaptation to Climate Change (RegioClima)To enhance cooperation among EU regions towards avoiding risk and reaping the benefits of a changing climate.8 partners from 8 countries, led by Larnaca District Development Agency, Cyprus
Climate Neutral Urban Districts in Europe (CLIMACT)To strengthen regional capacity to develop and implement policies to reduce GHG emissions.11 partners from 9 regions led by Rhône-Alps Region
Regions for Sustainable Change (RSC)To develop the potential of regions to stimulate climate change mitigation and adaptation and to promote sustainable socioeconomic development.12 partners from 8 EU Member States, led by the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Hungary
POWER ProgrammeTo improve the effectiveness of regional development policies through the exchange, sharing and transfer of policy experience, knowledge and good practices related to five themes.7 partners from 7 regions, led by South East England Development Agency (SEEDA), UK
Climate Neutral Urban Districts in Europe (CLUE)To increase regional capacity in policy development to facilitate the implementation and assessment of new solutions and technologies to support low-carbon economic development in urban areas.11 partners from 9 European countries, led by Stockholm City Planning Administration, Sweden

 The INTERREG IVC climate change projects address a common set of themes that are closely linked to the main steps in the regional planning process. The good practices and main findings are grouped according to five interlinked core themes.

Core theme 1: Making the case for climate action 
Developing an information base on climate change and making the case for climate action through targeted research and methodologies is seen by many regions as a prerequisite for bridging the gap between the abstract nature of climate change as an issue and the need to design and implement realistic mitigation and adaptation measures. Good practices have emerged from the climate change projects on how pilot and demonstration projects can help to raise levels of knowledge and awareness among decision-makers.

Core theme 2: Stakeholder involvement and policy networks 
This theme includes good practices focusing on the achievement of common climate-related goals (e.g. climate-neutral areas, climate agreements and partnerships, energy autonomy); tools for stakeholder analysis, multi-stakeholder involvement and encouraging commitment on the part of politicians to achieve climate-related goals; and the establishment of specialised institutions in regional and national administrations.

Core theme 3: Strategic and action planning
The good practices grouped under this core theme include examples of local and regional climate change strategies; approaches to designing and implementing integrated territorial actions; the integration of climate change as a cross-cutting issue, including through the support of assessment tools; and guidance for climate change strategic and action planning.

Core theme 4: Implementation measures
Good practices categorised under this theme focus on changing behaviour and increasing climate consciousness in society. They include public campaigns and educational programmes; measures to enhance climate knowledge in the private sector; and public and private financial support mechanisms.

Core theme 5: Measuring and monitoring progress 
The practices that fall under this topic include collecting and creating inventories of data on emissions and energy; developing tools for assessing or improving the baseline situation; using indicators to measure implementation results; and developing tools for assessing the outcomes and cost-effectiveness of low-carbon measures.

Moving towards a competitive, low-carbon society is central to the EU policy agenda, and this issue has been explored by several of the INTERREG IVC climate change projects. The POWER and RSC projects, for example, developed guidance documents for use by regions. A common issue addressed by the adaptation projects was the building of resilience to the impacts of climate change. The adopted solutions vary according to the project contexts and specific geographical conditions. While F:ACTS! emphasised the importance of implementing integrated territorial strategies, GRaBS considered nature conservation measures as crucial in climate change adaptation in urban areas.

Several of the good practices provide technical solutions in the field of cleaner energy, and for emissions reductions in the transport sector. The WICO sub-programme of the POWER project developed guidelines for promoting small wind energy development solutions and building energy audit solutions (GENERATION). The POWER project summarised strategies for energy efficiency through climate agreements and eco-driving solutions. Other good practices (e.g. in Portugal’s Douro region, F:ACTS!; and in the Veneto region of Italy, RegioClima) illustrate effective adaptation measures in the agricultural sector.

A key challenge for regions is the availability of robust and accurate data on emissions performance. Good practices in this context range from collecting an inventory of GHG observation and climate protection policies across Europe to the implementation of pilot projects on GHG emissions balance at city and local levels. Assessment tools (e.g. strategic environmental assessments) were also highlighted as efficient ways to mainstream climate change issues into planning.

Various techniques for involving wider stakeholder groups in decision-making processes were identified, although these are not widespread. Common methods of raising public awareness of climate change included engaging citizens in climate change actions and training them to use energy more efficiently.

As the INTERREG IVC climate change projects address a variety of issues in common, there is an opportunity to explore similarities and synergies between them. Such synergies can be found in the tools and methodological approaches used by the partners, as well as in the solutions identified.

Bearing in mind the ongoing challenge of translating the EU climate policy objectives into policy actions at regional and local levels, there is huge potential for sharing learning and creating synergies among initiatives and programmes that address similar problems. One of the objectives of the EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change is to ensure better-informed decision-making by addressing gaps in adaptation knowledge, and the INTERREG IVC climate change projects have the potential to contribute to this objective through knowledge and good practices that can be beneficial to other regions in Europe. One way to build this knowledge base, especially in the context of climate change adaptation, is through the European Climate Adaptation Platform (Climate-ADAPT).

Synergies can also be identified with other initiatives that focus on low-carbon development and sustainable energy use (e.g. the Covenant of Mayors, Energy Cities, Smart Cities). The DG CLIMA initiative ‘A World You Like with a Climate You Like’ comprises the collection of success stories related to the implementation of the 2050 low-carbon roadmap. Many of these practices can be of use to the INTERREG IVC climate change project partners and could contribute to building greater awareness in the partners’ regions and local communities. Synergies can also be sought with programmes that are part of the European territorial cooperation objective of the current Cohesion Policy.

Towards a common goal

The seven climate change projects covered in this report have produced a range of good results aimed at tackling the complex challenge of climate change at local and regional levels. Collectively, the results have demonstrated the benefits of taking early action on both mitigation and adaptation. The concrete examples and also the support tools and methodological approaches generated through the actual experiences of local and regional authorities working on the INTERREG climate change projects are an invaluable contribution to climate change action in the EU, and should be further recognised as such in an effort to motivate action in all parts of Europe.

A number of recommendations aimed mainly at local and regional authorities but also the EU and the future European Territorial Cooperation programmes have stemmed from the lessons learnt in carrying out the INTERREG IVC projects:

  • The dissemination of examples that clearly demonstrate the benefits of climate change action is of particular importance for this topic, where convincing decision-makers and stakeholders of the need for early action is so critical.
  • Local and regional authorities should also take advantage of the information available via portals such as Climate-ADAPT, which includes adaptation case studies as well as tools and methodologies supporting adaptation planning.
  • Building consensus for climate change action across sectors and disciplines is critical to build a sound, scientific basis for climate change planning and action. To do this, authorities must be prepared to reach out to a wide range of stakeholders, including many with whom they may not be accustomed to working.
  • Climate change action is very much dependent on the quality of information that goes into planning and implementation. Both the policy-making and the scientific and research communities need to focus on the quality of mechanisms for sharing information in this regard.
  • Local authorities should consider joining one of the EU initiatives that fosters political commitment to climate change action at the highest levels, and provides support and monitoring for planning and implementation.
  • Closer cooperation between national and regional governments is needed in order to translate national and European targets and objectives into the regional context.
  • Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), which is a procedure required by EU law (Directive 2001/42/EC) for the assessment of the environmental impacts of certain plans and programmes, has been identified by the projects as a key tool for integrating climate change considerations into other policy areas.
  • Wherever possible, Member States and regions should consider the natural environment, including the role of ecosystem services as a natural buffer against the impacts of climate change, in planning for adaptation to climate change.
  • Cohesion Policy can co-finance a range of climate change-related initiatives, such as investments in pilot technologies, disaster and risk management plans and mechanisms and, where eligible, infrastructure. In rural areas, the rural development programmes of the Common Agricultural Policy can address climate change measures.
  • Member States and regions also need to take care that climate change — both low-carbon issues and vulnerabilities to climate impacts — are taken into account in all areas of public funding, particularly in places where EU funds constitute a large share of public development spending.
  • Ideally, all spending programmes for EU funds should be grounded in comprehensive and well-founded climate change strategies backed up by credible scientific research. Where climate strategies are not available, SEA can be useful as a catalyst for bringing a climate change perspective to the spending plans.
  • More progress is needed on the development of tools for measuring and monitoring progress on both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Adaptation will be especially challenging in this regard.

As of 31 December 2015, this website is no longer updated. Follow news on interregional cooperation at www.interregeurope.eu