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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on September 10th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

We were informed of a Press Briefing

at the Vienna International Cenre, Thursday, September 8, 2011, 1:30 p.m. on

Adaptation to Climate Change by Spatial Planning in the Alps.

This was to be about: The main results and outcomes achieved under the CLISP Project “Adaptation to Climate Change by Spatial Planning in the Alpine area” will be discussed at the CLISP international final conference organized by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Federal Environment Agency Austria, held at the Vienna International Centre at that date – on 8 September 2011, at which the Head of the UNEP Vienna Office, Harald Egerer, stressed the importance of the particular study as a platform for the development of an integrated, transnational approach toward adaptation to impacts of climate change in the highly sensitive area of the Alps.

It also said  at the margins of the Conference, high level representatives from the European Union, the Alpine Convention and Austrian agencies will take part at the Press Briefing with the purpose of illustrating present and future strategies to tackle negative effect of climate change in the Alpine space.
Speakers include:

Rosario Bento Pais
DG Climate Action, European Commission

Andre Jol
Head of vulnerability group, European Environment Agency

Marco Onida
Secretary General, Alpine Convention

George Reberning
Managing Director, Federal Environment Agency Austria

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Having shown interest, later we also received a Press Release:

Climate Change Adaptation by Spatial Planning in the Alpine Space.

VIENNA, 8 September (UN Information Service) – One hundred participants from the Alpine States have gathered today at the Vienna International Centre to discuss the main results and outcomes achieved under the Adaptation to Climate Change by Spatial Planning in the Alpine Space Project (CLISP). Organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Federal Environment Agency Austria, the CLISP Final Conference was opened with a video-message from UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner.
Climate change is expected to affect spatial development in the Alpine Space, including land use, socio-economic activities and life-sustaining ecosystems services more severely than in other European regions. Temperature increase, decreasing snow cover and more severe weather extremes could cause a variety of adverse climate change impacts. Growing risks from water scarcity, heat waves and natural
hazards might threaten settlements, physical infrastructure, utilities, material assets and human lives.
Vulnerability assessment:
Funded under the EU Alpine Space Programme, the CLISP Project in its three years focused on the challenges to spatial planning in the face of climate change. The 16 CLISP partner organizations have analyzed ten Alpine model regions according to their vulnerability to climate change. Results have shown that regions, which are already sensitive to the climate extremes, are expected to be the most vulnerable regions also in the future. Even though technical measures are mostly well implemented “soft” adaptation strategies like a proper “climate-proof” spatial planning, better coordination of actions within institutions, and better risk-communication are often missing.
Climate change fitness of spatial planning systems analyzed:
The investigation of the “climate change fitness” of spatial planning systems has shown that there are already strong formal planning instruments and important informal practices at hand that could be used to respond to climate change and to coordinate cross-sectoral adaptation activities. Nevertheless, climate adaptation needs to be addressed more directly and defined as an objective of spatial planning in legislation and other frameworks.
Transnational Planning Strategy:
One of the main outcomes of the CLISP project is the Transnational Planning Strategy (TPS) that is mainly aimed at policymakers, decision-makers and political actors in spatial planning in the Alpine space as a decision-making tool for the development of suitable adaptation strategies and actions in response to climate change.
Strategic project in the field of climate change adaptation and spatial planning:
The findings of the CLISP project as well as the pan-European perspectives of climate change adaptation have been discussed with representatives from the European Commission – Directorate General for Regional Policy, Directorate General for Climate Action, the Alpine Convention, the European Environment Agency as well as with participants from other international institutions attending the CLISP final conference.
CLISP Project is a pioneering project in the field of climate change adaptation and spatial planning. Its outcomes are not only of strategic relevance for the coordinated development of climate change adaptation policies in the Alpine region, but with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme the CLISP results and experience can also be shared with other mountain regions, such as the Carpathians, Balkans and the Himalaya region.
The CLISP project can be found at www.clisp.eu
For more information please contact:

Giulia Sechi
UNEP Vienna – Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060 – 4454
Email: giulia.sechi[at]unvienna.org

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At the Press Conference there were just two journalists – myself and the Vienna editor for an industry magazine 4C, Ms. Margarette Endl who came as a guest of the organizers of what turned out to have been the “graduating” event – the release of the final documents of this stage inthe CLISP Project.

Other people in the room were part of the conference and thus asked no questions. Ms. Endl asked questions on the basis of her attendance at the morning session.
I ended up asking on the base of my general interest in the subject, and learned that since the three poles concept the subject has evolved, and I have now much more to learn about the mountain regions. As evidence of this large area – I already posted several items today based on other sources of information.

Coincidently, years ago, I was present when Ambassador Dr. Irene Freudenschuss-Reichl  introduced for Austria and UNIDO the subject of Mountain Regions to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development. At the UN Mountains were always a synonym to the Himalayas like deserts, arid and semiarid lands are a synonym to Africa – but she was already then speaking about Austria and the Alps. Now the subject has evolved and we speak of regions within this large area previously included in the Alpine region.

I mentioned the three poles where the Himalayas are the third pole – and asked if we should talk now of five poles – including the Alps and the Andes – while leaving out the lesser areas like the mountains of New Zealand – because the region is rather small or Africa where the melting of the snows of Kilimanjaro has sort of eliminated the problem. I knew this was a rather provocative question and got a very good answer from Mr. Pier Carlo Sandei where he explained that the mountain regions are not just about the disappearance of the glaciers – but rather about the moving up of vegetation lines – thus a general  changing in the nature in the mountains because of Climate Change and other reasons. This is a general UNEP interest and the subject has progressed through a series of Conventions.

I stayed for the afternoon sessions that were chaired by Ms. Sabine McCallum, the department head for the subjects of Environment Impact Assessment & Climate Change of the Austrian Department of the Environment. she was actually the head of the project and her Minister – Helmut Hojesky, Federal Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment, and Water Management, was the main speaker at the High-Level Panel Discussion: “Taking action towards climate-proof spatial development – What is the way forward?”

Others on the panel were Thomas Probst, Swiss Federal Office for the Environment; Rosario Benito Pais and Jose Ruiz de Casas, both from the European Commission one from  Climate Action and the other from Regions; Andre Jol, Head of group Vulnerability and Adaptation, European Environment Agency; and Marco Onida, Secretary General of the Alpine Convention.

What happened here was that the area of the Alpine Convention has been divided into 10 regions that the study dealt with separately. It is obvious that the problems of the Swiss Alps that are dedicated mainly to tourism are very different from the problems in the newer members of the EU from the Balkans and the Carpathian regions where there are also States that do not belong to the EU altogether. The project did not just reshuffle data – but produced data and starts proposing plans of action – this being the ultimate goal of the project that after being absorbed by the States involved – will then be continued in order to come up with further plans of action.

We were told not to forget mitigation. While adaptation is a defense for the countries here – if there are no tangible results on mitigation here and elsewhere – there will be need for more adaptation in the future.

The European Commission told us that CLIMATE ACTION is now a new DG (that means a Department with Department Head and Stuff and a mandate to act). All these studies and Plans of Axtion will be under this department.

THE minister said that his people learn the Swiss and German experience – AND WE HAVE TO ADAPT TO CLIMATE CHANGE – BECAUSE IT WILL HAPPEN – WHATEVER WE DO.

UNEP declared that they are here because they want to learn from the A-B-C … the Alps, Balkans, Carpathian regions. The countries that were parts of Yugoslavia and Albania have lot of historic experience but having become independent of each other, whatever centralized poiicy there was it is now worse – there is no communication between them. Cooperation is needed and this project provides a unified platform and future regional adaptation. The Balkan region is actually a Balkan and Dinaric Arc Region that covers the Adriatic Coast.

So far as Vienna goes – as always – it finds itself in the middle – this time in the middle between the Alps and the Carpatians with the “B” region to the South.

There was the need for a Carpathian Convention in addition to the Alpine Convention. The Carpathian Convention includes The Ukraine and Serbia that are not part of the EU. 66% of the Carpathian region is still covered with forests – this provides extra-potential to preserve biodiversity, landscape and quality of air.

Pier Carlo Sandei spoke of SUSTAINABLE GROWTH in the context of the 21st Century – rather then the 20th Century. He gave me the feeling that Sustainable Growth as understood earlier is a no=no today when we must think of TRANSNATIONAL REGIONS that will aim by 2020 to be sustained by 20% Sustainable Energy.

He also used in the summary the conclusion: MITIGATION IS GLOBAL – ADAPTATION IS LOCAL & REGIONAL. One will have to look at climate costs – if you invest or you do not invest. This reminds us of the situation that compares the way industry looks at their strategy to answer CO2 emissions decrease requirements.

If you do something overseas – you get the credits and you can apply the full amount right now – but if you reduce your own emissions at home, you do not get the immediate full credit – you rather get the credit apportioned for the long range of the project – and that is what sends corporations to buy credits overseas. AHA! You Kyoto Protocol; affectionados – hear it from us = we warned you that the system never made sense!

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Looking at the nice collection of material I took along – I would like to give here references for the benefit of our readers:

A – ALPINE CONVENTION, 2nd efition, January 2011, Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention, Herzog-Friedrich-Strasse 15, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria with a branch office in Bolzano-Bosen, Italy.  www.alpconv.org

B – BALKAN VITAL GRAPHICS – Environment Without Borders. Published by UNEP/GRID=Arendal in 2007. It was backed by Austria and canada and was used as part of the Belgrade October 10-12, 2001 Ministerial Conference on Building Bridges To The Future Environment For Europe. It deals with mining, water and nature.

C – A COLLECTION ON THE CARPATHIAN CONVENTION, material prepared for the Second Convention of the Parties, Bucharest, June 17-19, 2008. Published in
Bolzano, Italy. www.carpathianproject.eu  —– This material was followed by the Carpathian Project headed by Mr. Harald Egerer of UNEP Vienna. www.carpathianconvention.org … Harald.Egerer@unvienna  … The Partners to the project are institutions from Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Germany, Romania, The Ukraine.

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