Prioritising climate action in the Alps at the 74th Permanent Committee

The highlight of the 74th meeting of the Permanent Committee of the Alpine Conference on 9 March was a discussion on climate action in the Alps. After an update by the Swiss Presidency on its programme and priority areas, the Alpine Climate Board, Germany and Switzerland and the Observer organisations Alliance in the Alps and Alpine Town of the Year presented some ongoing projects in the field of climate action.

Climate is the common thread of the Swiss Presidency of the Alpine Convention 2021-2022. The ongoing implementation of a five-point plan with concrete climate projects and initiatives is at the centre of its Presidency programme.

The climate-related activities of the Alpine Convention are bundled under the Alpine Climate Board (ACB), an Alpine platform for expert discussions and exchanges on climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Alps. During the Permanent Committee meeting, the Chair of the ACB presented the group’s ongoing work, priorities and cooperation with other Thematic Working Bodies of the Alpine Convention.

Switzerland gave an overview of the sixth edition of the Constructive Alps architecture competition which they fund together with the Principality of Liechtenstein. The competition rewards renovations and new buildings in the Alps that demonstrate outstanding ecological, economic, social and aesthetic features. Over 230 applications were submitted to the competition, of which 31 have been shortlisted in the view of awarding the prizes towards the end of the year.

Another project in the area of sustainable infrastructure is the ClimaHost award, which Germany presented. The second edition was launched last year and is aimed at accommodation businesses that are committed to climate protection and energy saving. Despite the tourism sector having been hit hard by the pandemic, hotels, youth hostels, inns, guesthouses, and mountain huts from most Alpine countries applied. The award ceremony is also foreseen later this year.

Alliance in the Alps shared their “KlimaFit” project with the Permanent Committee, whose aim is to develop a “local development compass” to support municipalities in sustainable development planning. The project builds on the Social Planning Instrument from the Interreg Alpine Space Project PlurAlps to cover the topics of climate protection and adaptation to climate change as well as biodiversity and landscape and focus on the competencies of the municipal level in Germany. It is funded by Germany and will conclude in March 2022.

The Alpine Town of the Year Association gave further insight into its pilot action within the European Territorial Agenda titled “Climate Action in Alpine Towns” which aims to better connect spatial development with climate issues in Alpine towns. The project focuses on citizen participation in ongoing planning processes in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation and was illustrated by activities in Idrija/SI, Sonthofen/DE and Chambéry/FR.

The discussion which followed emphasised the need for synergies between the different activities and bodies of the Alpine Convention. This tied into a subsequent discussion on the status of the preparation of the Multi-Annual Work Programme (MAP) 2023-2030. The foreseen cross-sectoral priority topics of the MAP will be “climate change”, “quality of life” as well as “biodiversity and ecosystems”. These topics are not exclusive and will be approached in a holistic manner. All of the Alpine Convention’s bodies and activities in other sectors will contribute to fulfilling the objectives of the priority areas. The Slovenian delegation, which will take over the Presidency of the Alpine Convention after Switzerland, gave a specific input on how to approach the issue of quality of life in the Alps.

The Presidency also reported on the state of the Simplon Alliance, an action plan for the decarbonisation of transport in the Alps that was discussed by the Environment and Transport Ministers of the Alpine countries at a joint meeting in January.

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