Actions putting the Territorial Agenda into practice

Climate action in Alpine towns

Perceptions of the Alps are often rather rural than urban. However, around one third of Alpine inhabitants live in densely populated Alpine towns. They take on important functions for large territories and have a large international reputation. The Swiss Presidency of the Alpine Convention in 2021/2022 is making Alpine towns one of its priorities. With our partners, we research the roles of Alpine towns for the sustainable development of this territory. The results are published in a report that includes a scientific analysis of the role and current state of Alpine towns and five scenarios for the future to show alternative development options.

In the framework of the Territorial Agenda 2030, Switzerland also supports small-scale pilot activities that help towns to take forerunner roles in climate mitigation, adaptation and resource management, which is especially important because the Alps are particularly affected by climate change. For this purpose, Switzerland works together with Germany, Slovenia, Austria, Norway, the European Commission, the Alpine Convention, the Alpine Town of the Year Association and stakeholders on the local level.

Climate action in Alpine towns


Rationale and link to Territorial Agenda

One part of the pilot aims at researching the impact of Alpine towns on the Alpine region – as cause of environmental, climate, economic and social challenges, but also as an essential part of their solutions. This report aims at policy makers as well as interested citizens from an international to a local level. The other part of the pilot wants to connect spatial development more strongly with climate issues by supporting pilot activities on a town level, contributing to the objective of a Green Europe. To implement these activities, we build on local potential by bringing civil society, civil servants and other stakeholders together, contributing to the objective of a Just Europe and showing that positive change can happen now. The small-scale activities shall show that municipalities can implement low-threshold climate action right away by building on local potential.

Both the report and the small-scale activities in towns shall help to develop place-based and sustainable solutions supported by the whole society. By setting an example, the pilot action seeks to inspire other small and medium sized towns across Europe. We try to create long-term potential by building on a sound framework with well-established networks in the Alpine area and building on bottom-up actions. The pilot action relies strongly on Alpine partners in the field (i.e. Alpine Town of the Year Association and its member towns) and support from the Alpine Convention networks. Even though the report and actions focus on towns and municipalities in the Alps, the process and the results can be applied to many territories.


Activities

The report on the state of the Alps ‘Alpine Towns – Key to Sustainable Development of the Alpine Region’ is developed together with an international expert group including researchers from all Alpine countries, NGO’s, local project managers and students. It will be published in September 2022.

For the small-scale activities of ‘Climate Action in Alpine Towns’ we created a support framework allowing the participating Alpine towns to experiment and test approaches for citizen participation in relation to climate change adaptation or mitigation in ongoing planning processes. The pilot actions will help the towns to improve practices in the fields of citizen involvement, spatial planning and climate change and promoting exchange of experience.


Lessons and results

1. Report on the State of the Alps ‘Alpine Towns – Key to Sustainable Development of the Alpine Region’:

The report consists of two parts. Part 1 is a collection of facts, maps and scientific debates on the current state of the Alpine settlement system. Part 2 presents five scenarios of the future, developed in a broad participative process. They offer sustainable solutions and perspectives to develop future-proof strategies on many topics around Alpine towns and settlements. The whole report, especially the scenarios, will provide creative inputs for future urban development specifically for the Alpine area. Nevertheless small places in other territories can profit from this knowledge as well.

2. Small-scale ‘Climate Action in Alpine Towns’:

With the pilot we created a framework that allows the participating towns to experiment and test approaches for citizen participation in relation to climate change adaptation or mitigation in ongoing planning processes. Local project activities are ongoing in Idrija, Tolmin, Villach, Belluno, Trento, Sonthofen, Brig-Glis, Annecy and Chambéry since spring 2021 and until autumn 2022 with local funding and support from the pilot lead and TA2030 partners.

 


Envisaged lessons

By the end of the pilot actions and after the final event, our partners shall be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are the specific advantages and disadvantages of settlements in the Alpine area? What are the challenges they need to address in particular?
  • How should a sustainable Alpine town look like until 2050?
  • How can we develop low-threshold climate action in spatial planning?
  • How can we involve civil society and especially young people more carefully in urban governance and planning processes?
  • How does the involvement change the awareness of citizens about urban planning and the benefits of a healthy environment? How does this affect the perception of quality of life?

Dissemination

All results will be published on www.alpinetowns.alpconv.org from September 2022. This includes the report with its analytical part on the current state of Alpine towns and the five scenarios, as well as a summary on the small-scale pilot activities. The results are further disseminated in the Territorial Agenda and Alpine Convention networks. Furthermore, an international event is planned to take place by the end of 2022 to present project results, open to all project partners, as well as international stakeholders and other interested participants.


Resources

All partners bring in own resources, e.g. funding, personnel or knowledge. Each participating town took over staff costs for the realisation of the project and participation in local workshops and international events and received funds for the participation process on a selected challenge related to climate change and/or spatial planning. The research for the report is funded by the Swiss Presidency of the Alpine Convention.


Partners

The main partners are Switzerland (lead), Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Norway, the European Commission and the Alpine Convention. Implementation is done with support of the Alpine Towns of the Year Association and the nine selected Alpine towns.  For the report process, France, Monaco, Liechtenstein and Italy were also involved and many of the observer organisations (NGO’s) of the Alpine Convention, students and other interested parties.


Lead stakeholder

Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE, Switzerland

Marc Pfister (marc.pfister@are.admin.ch)


Key messages

Alpine towns are the cause of many challenges for sustainable development in the Alps, but also an essential part of their solution. The scientific Report on the state of the Alps ‘Alpine Towns – Key to Sustainable Development of the Alpine Region’ shall give insight into the current state of the Alpine settlement system, discuss political implications and show future development options in five scenarios.

A built environment that enables low emissions plays a key role for a positive future. The small-scale actions want to connect spatial development more strongly with climate issues, contributing to the objective of a Green Europe. The implementation brings civil society, community and civil servants together, contributing to the objective of a Just Europe: showing that positive change can happen now. Long-term impacts from these actions shall arise by building on existing resources, bottom-up actions and providing a sound framework with well-established networks in the Alpine area.

 

18th of June 2021 Peer learning workshop “Climate action in Alpine towns – How to?”. Knowledge support to the local project consortia to develop climate action.
16th and 17th September 2021 Report Scenario Development Workshop Part 1 in Innsbruck.
20th October 2021 Report Scenario Development Workshop Part 2
7th April 2022 Alpine Towns ‘Atelier’ in Innsbruck: Development of project ideas and strategies from the report results
Date Main Activities
19th January 2021 Kick-off meeting for the TA2030 Partnership
29th January 2021 Kick off meeting with the Alpine towns
18th February 2021 Participation in the ESPON Joint session Pilots LAB TA2030, promoted by PT PRES & ESPON
6th May 2021 Participation in the pilot action “A future for lagging regions: fostering the implementation of spatial strategies” kick-off event “Putting the Territorial Agenda 2030 into practice”, promoted by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Building and Community (BMI) and the German Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development (BBSR)
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