Introduction and Methodology

This study presents the analysis and key findings of the capitalisation exercise focusing on seven climate change projects supported by the INTERREG IVC Programme. ‘Capitalisation’ involves collecting, analysing and highlighting the valuable, innovative, interesting and useful aspects of the work undertaken in the framework of these projects, and the knowledge accumulated as a result of project cooperation, in order for them to be used or replicated by other regions and stakeholders. 

One of the priorities of the INTERREG IVC Programme is to enable regional and local authorities and other stakeholders at regional level to improve their policies, methods and capacities in the area of environment and risk prevention. The seven projects that are the focus of this study aim to address one of the main themes of the programme: climate change. There are two main aspects to climate change response: the mitigation of future climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and adaptation to future projected changes in the climate and their impact on society. As further explored in this study, each of these aspects involves different policy and planning responses that affect different sectors and stakeholders, and that are therefore addressed separately by the authorities. At the same time, there are important linkages between climate change adaptation and mitigation, and local and regional authorities often aim to tackle climate change via a single plan or programme. Nevertheless, all seven INTERREG IVC projects in this study that address the topic of climate change have a primary focus on either adaptation or mitigation issues, which has influenced the approach to the comparative analysis. Wherever possible, all the projects have been considered as a single group that collectively addresses climate change, although where appropriate specific comparisons are made within the adaptation and mitigation sub-groups. This approach mirrors recent developments in EU policies, which deal separately with issues related to the mitigation of future climate change and adaptation to climate impacts but which consider both as equally vital for long-term sustainable growth.

Key definitions and terms

The concept of ‘climate change’ can be complex, and its definition has evolved over time. From a policymakers point of view, however, the definition used by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which manages the international treaty on climate change, is a useful one. ‘Climate change’ refers to “a change of climate that is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and that is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.”

Further relevant terms for understanding the approach to climate change covered in this study are given below.

  • Climate change adaptation refers to responses to the impacts of climate change. The IPCC defines adaptation as “adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities.”  Adaptation can also be thought of as the ongoing process of managing risks related to the changing climate.
  • Adaptive capacity is the ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes), to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.
  • Climate change mitigation is any action taken to permanently eliminate or reduce the long-term risks and hazards of climate change to human life and property. The IPCC defines mitigation as “an anthropogenic intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.”
  • Green infrastructure is the network of natural and semi-natural areas, features and green spaces in rural and urban, terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine areas, which together enhance ecosystem health and resilience, contribute to biodiversity conservation and benefit human populations through the maintenance and enhancement of ecosystem services.
  • Greenhouse gases are gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of thermal infrared radiation emitted by the Earth's surface, the atmosphere itself, and by clouds. This property causes the greenhouse effect. Water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and ozone (O3) are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.
  • Low-carbon economy is characterised by low energy consumption, low pollution and low emissions. The fundamental aim is to achieve high energy efficiency, to use clean/renewable energy and to pursue green GDP via technological innovation.
  • Resilience is the ability of a social or ecological system to absorb disturbances while retaining the same basic structure and ways of functioning, the capacity for self-organisation, and the capacity to adapt to stress and change.
  • Vulnerability refers to the extent to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, the adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. It depends not only on a system’s sensitivity but also on its adaptive capacity.

Methodological approach

To ensure that the knowledge and experiences accumulated by the seven INTERREG IVC climate change projects are appropriately captured and analysed, the project team carried out extensive desk research focusing on the documents available for each project. This included screening project websites, progress reports, final reports (where available), and project deliverables such as methodologies, techniques and tools developed by the projects, guidance documents, reports on identified good practices and implemented pilot actions, and final publications summarising key project results and policy messages. These documents served to orient the team towards a better understanding of the projects and guided the collection of more detailed information.

Figure 1 provides an overview of the steps taken to carry out this study. These steps were not carried out in an entirely sequential manner; there was some iteration between the activities leading up to the final output.

Figure 1: Methodological approach for the analysis 

 

Structure of the study

The results of the capitalisation work are summarised in the present report, which covers the following issues:

Section 1: Introduction and methodology introduces the topic of climate change and describes the methodology for study development.  

Section 2: Policy context presents the key climate change challenges and suggests how European regions can address them. This section draws a parallel with the European strategic policy framework in the climate change field and discusses how interregional cooperation can contribute to the achievement of strategic climate change policy goals. Examples of other EU initiatives and programmes relevant to the topic are also presented.

Section 3: Analysis focuses on the individual projects and the extent to which they address similar challenges. Solutions to common problems as well as descriptions of good practices featuring innovative or transferable aspects are also highlighted. The analysis illustrates how the results of the INTERREG IVC climate change projects are of interest to other regions and how they contribute to improving policies in the climate change field.

Section 4: Key policy messages highlights findings relevant to other EU regions as well as policy recommendations for regional, national and European policymakers and practitioners.

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