Text by the Italian Presidency of the Alpine Convention (2013-2014)
Italy held the presidency of the Alpine Convention for the period 2013-2014. The Presidency was implemented by the Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, in accordance with the local authorities in the Alps. The Minister Gianluca Galletti Presided the XIII Alpine Conference.
"Il Crinale" - News by the Presidency
Through the choice of the theme “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” the EXPO 2015 was an occasion for the enhancement of agricultural products and food traditions of the participating Countries. The Alpine Convention took the opportunity of EXPO 2015, and so promoting Mountain Farming with its unique products and its secular traditions.
The Italian Presidency, given the interest already expressed to the Alpine Conference in Poschiavo (2012) and on the basis of the biannual program 2013-2014, has promoted a thematic reflection and a series of initiatives and meetings, that have allowed to evaluate which contribution the Alpine Convention could give on the themes of EXPO 2015 and to compare itself with other initiatives designed to the mountain territories.
At the institutional level the Permanent Committee has approved the Italian proposal to organize a Mountain Week from 4 to 11 June 2015, which took take place inside and outside the site of EXPO Milan 2015. The initiative aimed to promote the mountains and its food productions, based on the experience of the international cooperation developed during over the years by the Alpine Convention with other mountain areas (for example the Carpathians, the Himalayas, the Caucasus, the Pyrenees, the Andes) and of the outcomes that have come to light especially in the international working groups dedicated to the mountain farming and to the “labeling” of quality products.
The Mountain Week saw the collaboration of the national alpine governments, of the Permanent Secretariat and of the Observers of the Alpine Convention, of international bodies such as the Carpathian Convention and the Mountain Partnership as well as other entities on different administrative levels, the private sector and the civil society.
The opening and closing events of the week were organized by the Italian Environmental Ministry and were held in the exhibition site EXPO Milan 2015. These events promoted the excellence in the Alpine and international framework, with particular reference to the cross-border cooperation between territories with food excellence, sustainable agriculture production in the perspective of global exchange and the “green economy”.
The Mountain Week was open to the participation of the citizens and the institutions: for this reason the Italian Presidency invited public and private entities, interested in the topics covered, to propose to fit their initiatives self-organized in the schedule of the Mountain Week.
Because of its geomorphological conformation the Alpine territory needs to be constantly monitored in order to avoid environmental disasters which could cause severe damages to ecosystems and infrastructures. That’s why the Alpine Convention has dedicated great attention to the issue of local adaptation to climate change for mountain territories, including some tools to ease States and local entities in the managing these phenomena.
The Climate Change Task Force worked towards the making of the “Giudelines for local adaptation to climate change in the Apine region”. This document doesn’t foresee additional obligations with respect to those deriving from international, national or local instruments. It rather intends to provide a reference framework, instructions and useful tools for policy makers and administrators, at regional and sub-regional level, to realize local adaptation plans which are aware of the peculiarity of the Alpine territories.
The text of the guidelines is aligned with the main reports and European and international instruments developed on the theme of adaptation and related local planning as well as with the findings of research and cooperation projects dedicated to adaptation, particularly in the Alpine region. Furthermore, the guidelines allow to extend the mandates of the Water and PLANALP Platforms, which required to develop guidelines for local adaptation in the Alpine context, to other thematic fields. The definitive version of the guidelines will be presented at the Conference of the Ministries in Turin in November 2014.
The Task Force was also working on the draw up of the Alpine Convention - Carpathian Convention joint declaration on local adaptation to climate change in mountain areas. The approved message will be presented during the COP20 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Lima (Perù) (1-12 December 2014) on occasion of a public event in the “Mountain Pavillion”, whose organization will be by UNEP and the presidencies of the Alpine and Carpathian conventions.
The Task Force has also collaborated with the Mountain Forests Working Group in the drawing up of a document on accounting measures and experiences of CO2 emissions absorption by Alpine forests and volountary instruments.
Infrastructures for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) play a relevant role in the new society as means of inclusion and competitiveness for the population, commercial activities, administration and tourism. As of today, broadband connectivity has become a necessity to avoid exclusion of part of the population. This is also true for remote mountain areas and that’s why filling the gap of the digital divide in the Alps is considered an important goal of the Alpine Convention.
The Alpine Digital Agenda Task Force has been set up with the aim of analyzing the digital gap in the Alps and promote the development of a Digital Agenda tailor-made for the Alpine population. To this extent, it was implementing a document analyzing the main issue related to ICT in the Alps and proposes some solutions and best practices.
The aim of the study is facilitating the development of broadband in remote and high altitude areas in order to offer advanced services at the social level (such as telemedicine or distance learning) as well as at the economic one (for instance, through the creation of networks which can support the development of start-ups so that permanence or comeback of the youth is fostered). Moreover, the document proposes to harmonize the digital services of the public administration in order to provide innovative and useful services to the populations living in isolated areas.
The priorities identified by the document form the foundations of a proposal of an Alpine Digital Agenda which is proposed for adoption at the XIII Alpine Conference in Turin.
The cross-border cooperation in the management of mountain areas is the main theme of the Alpine Convention, whose experiences and good practices gained in twenty years of working together, have inspired the creation of other international agreements for the Mountain. These included, for example, the Carpathian Convention with which from the very beginning the Alps have created a fruitful cooperation.
The Task Force Mountain Cooperation, a tool for the deepening and enhancement of the cooperation forms among Countries as regards mountain policies, was coordinated by UNEP Vienna, precisely by the Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention. During the biennium the Task Force has played an important role for the definition of common actions and policies for the mountains to be proposed to the International community; for example it has contributed to the drafting of a joint Alpine-Carpathian declaration on climate change in connection with the Task Force on Climate Change. The document was be submitted to the respective Conferences of the Parties and was be presented at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima (December 2014).
The Task Force has also been involved in the preparation of the International Conference "The Alpine Convention and the Carpathian Convention: sharing the experiences. The Apennines, a European mountain range", organized by the Italian Presidency in Sarnano (IT) in April 2014.
Accepting the request of the local entities, of the Marche Region and of the University of Camerino, the Italian Presidency and UNEP have bought to Sarnano the experiences of the two Conventions that contributed to the drafting of the Charter of Sarnano, food for thought for the development of cooperation actions in the Italian Apennines regions.
Stronger involvement of Alpine youth was one of the objectives of the Italian Presidency of the Alpine Convention 2013-2014 that focused on supporting the young talents from the Alps interested in dealing with the topics of promotion, development and sustainability of the Alps in their study and work environment.
The Task Force New Generations for the Alps, led by the University of the Mountains from Edolo UNIMONT, carried out different activities. In this respect a delegation of youth participated at the 53rd Permanent Committee in Cortina d’Ampezzo at a special session called question time where they had the opportunity to discuss topics related to the Alpine Convention with national delegations.
The Task Force, together with the Presidency worked on an initiative for the youth to participate at the XIII Alpine Conference (Turin, 21 November 2014): young alpine talents were invited to take part in national delegations and a selected group also got the possibility to take part in the communication activities and journalism in scope of the Press conference held at the end of the Alpine Conference.
At the 55th Permanent Committee meeting in Brescia a decision was also made to support the initiative of the UNIMONT for the realization of a training course for post-graduate students focusing on Project Management for the mountains, intended for the young people that plan to specialize in the preparation of projects for the development of the Alpine areas.
The Sustainable Tourism Task Force was set up by the Italian Presidency to follow-up the commitment of the Alpine Convention as regards the valorization of tourism in the Alps.
The 4th edition of the Report on the state of the Alps (RSA4), published in 2012, already highlighted the role of this sector as a fundamental driver for the regional development of the Alpine territory. Thus, in continuity with the coverage of the issue, the Presidency has particularly focused on sustainable tourism within the analysis on Demographic Changes in the Alps, which was be dealt with in the 5th Report (RSA5).
The Task Force met for the first time in March 2013 in Courmayeur, on the occasion of the workshop organized by Espace Mont Blanc entitled “Environmental and social sustainability of Alpine tourism”.
Experts worked for the identification of the main sustainability indicators for mountain tourism and elaborated a document proposing to analyze the dynamics of the phenomenon in environmental and socio-economic terms. The report takes into account the different aspects of mountain sustainable tourism and presents a deep reflection on the opportunities and challenges for the territory as well as the impacts for the inhabiting population and the tourist. It also offers points for reflection for tourism management also in a transboundary context.
Undersecretary of State – Ministry for the Environment and the Protection of the Land and Sea
The legacy of the XIII. Alpine Conference in Turin: the commitment of the Ministry for the Environment for the safeguard and the sustainable development of the Alpine area
Last November 21, in Turin, I had the honour of chairing the XIIIth Alpine Conference, a summit of all representatives of the Alpine Convention Contracting Parties. It was a significant political moment and an opportunity to take stock of the recent work carried out by the eight Alpine delegations and the Permanent Secretariat, the Observers, local bodies and scientific research institutions, with the coordination of the Ministry for the Environment, which held the Presidency of the Convention in the years 2013-2014.
20 years after its creation, the Alpine Convention preserves its nature as a fundamental instrument for cross-border cooperation between Alpine countries. In Turin, we reasserted and relaunched this role, emphasizing the opportunity to capitalize on the experiences of the Convention to define new international instruments for the sustainable management of the Alpine area, first and foremost the EU Macro-Regional strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP). The XIII. Alpine Conference approved a decision to support the process to define the EUSALP strategy. The document states once again the intention of the Alpine Convention to continue to play a relevant role in the further development and implementation of the Strategy and its three Pillars, in particular the third, which covers all issues related to the sustainable use of energy and natural resources. The Conference also highlighted that the actions implemented in the framework of EUSALP will have to benefit both mountain areas and the surrounding regions, taking into account the functional relationships that exist between them.
The main decisions discussed at the XIII. Alpine Conference aim at the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth that had already been outlined by the “Europe 2020” strategy and has now been included in the three EUSALP pillars. Among such decisions, I would like to briefly mention the approval of the Guidelines for the local adaptation to climate change, which aims at implementing the Action Plan on Climate Change in the Alps of the Alpine Convention, giving regional and local decision makers useful information to develop adaptation measures and adequate spatial planning standards. In agreement with the Carpathian Convention, a joint position on “Climate Change” was formulated and approved by the XIII. Conference. It will be officially presented next December in Lima, during the 20th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC.
In Turin we confirmed once again the commitment for the safeguard of the Alpine ecosystem with the approval of a Declaration on the value of Alpine forests. The Declaration invites the Contracting Parties to consider, when defining national measures and policies, the recommendations aimed at improving the knowledge of the ecosystem services offered by Alpine forests, so as to ensure that their value for the Alpine environment and its populations is adequately acknowledged.
Some of the topics at the centre of the Declaration on Population and Culture of the Alpine Convention were also widely explored, with the goal of promoting the Alpine culture and traditions and support the people who live in the mountains. From this perspective, the 5th Report on the State of the Alps, completed during the Italian Presidency and approved in Turin, outlines an updated and detailed picture of the demographic dynamics that are currently under way in the Alpine area and offers interesting cues for the definition of measures for the social and economic development of the Alpine populations. Taking into account the data and analyses contained in the 5th Report, as well as the contribution offered by the two documents “A Digital Agenda for the Alps” and “Tourism in the Alps: Governing Sustainability” created during the Italian Presidency, the XIII. Conference acknowledged the importance of overcoming the “digital divide” in the Alpine region and offering the necessary digital services to individuals and businesses. The decision was also made to create an ad hoc Working Group on sustainable tourism, aimed at fully exploiting the potentials of an Alpine tourism characterized by economic, environmental and social sustainability as a key factor to ensure the wellbeing of the local populations and the attractiveness of the Alps.
Finally, I would like to mention the commitment of the Alpine Convention for EXPO 2015, the universal exhibition in Milan which will have the Alps as its natural backdrop. In Turin, we took the commitment to organize a “Mountain Week” from June 4-11. This will include a thematic itinerary inside and outside the pavilions of the Alpine countries and much more, and will show visitors the best traditions and agricultural and food cultures of the mountain regions.
At the end of our mandate, Italy will pass on the Presidency of the Alpine Convention to Germany. The work plan, following up on what has been done so far, will focus on the “Green Economy” and biodiversity. I am confident that our commitment will continue to strengthen the work of the Convention towards a sustainable future and the smart development of the Alps.
Francesco La Camera
The interim Director General
The Italian Presidency: working toward the XIII. Alpine Conference in Turin (July 2014)
This year, for the second time in 20 years, the Conference of Ministers of the Contracting Parties of the Alpine Convention is to be chaired by the Italian Minister for the Environment. The Conference is held every two years and Italy received the mandate to chair the 2013-2014 biennium of the Alpine Convention during the last Alpine Conference in Poschiavo (7th of September 2012), which was chaired by Switzerland. Next November the mandate will be handed over from the Italian to the German Presidency.
Over these past 18 months, the Programme of the Italian Presidency has been marked by extensive shared work with the Local Institutions of the Alpine territories, not only the Regions and Autonomous Provinces, but also the many centres of excellence and associations promoting the history and culture of the Alps; this shared Programme was formalised through a specific Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in Rome on 15 November 2012. “The guiding principle” of the Convention Programme and activities is the socio-economic and environmentally sustainable development of populations who live in Alpine areas and who contribute to ensuring adequate continuity of the services provided by their ecosystems; such services also benefit the populations of the foothills, lowlands and urban areas of the Alpine region.
Among the key actions pursued during the biennium we would highlight: the support provided by the Convention in defining a European Union Macroregional Strategy for the Alpine Region, a Community instrument that will provide new opportunities for common actions intended to develop the entire Alpine Region; the contribution the Alps to the EXPO 2015 themes, for which the Convention has planned a Mountain Week during which events will be organised in the pavilions of the Alpine Countries and other Mountain Partners of the Convention. Furthermore, during the Turin Conference, presentations will be made of the work of groups of experts selected by the Contracting Parties to implement the mandates and Protocols of the Convention, in particular with regard to:
Lastly, one should not forget the two task forces created by the Italian Presidency to develop and analyse two highly topical issues: the task force on sustainable tourism in the Alps is currently developing a complete analysis of metrics and opportunities for this sector, and the task force for a Digital Agenda for the Alps has focused on reducing the digital divide of mountain regions.
The Italian Presidency of the Alpine Convention will end with the XIII. Alpine Conference to be held in a unique venue in Turin: the Museo Nazionale della Montagna (National Mountain Museum). During these remaining months, with the contribution of the other Contracting Parties, we will be working towards finalising expected outcomes not forgetting that Italy’s six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union should prove to be a major opportunity to make progress.
Marco Flavio Cirillo
President-in-Office of the Alpine Conference
With the XII. Alpine Conference in Poschiavo, held on 7 September 2012, Italy took on the 2013-2014 Presidency of the Alpine Convention, a treaty involving the Alpine regions of Italy, Austria, Germany, France, Switzerland, Slovenia, Lichtenstein and the Principality of Monaco. We intend to make the best possible use of the opportunity provided by the Italian Presidency, by delineating a mountain territory strategy based on environmental protection and the promotion of sustainable development and while ensuring territorial safety.
In signing this international Treaty over twenty years ago, for the first time in the history of international legislation, the Countries of the Alpine Region established a legal instrument to promote sustainable development within a cross-border mountain territory. The initiative was based on the awareness that the Alps are one of Europe’s most vital areas, not merely for their socio-economic and historical and cultural relevance, but also because of the intrinsic relationship between these variables and the quality, beauty and countless assets of Alpine ecosystems.
The many environmental, social and economic services provided by Alpine ecosystems are of major importance, not only for the wellbeing and quality of life of their inhabitants, but also for the population of a sizable area of the European continent. In this respect the Alps are a bonding element between these populations that work together, and must continue to do so, towards the common good.
The primary objective of the 2013-2014 Italian Presidency of the Alpine Convention is to contribute to preserving and strengthening the mechanisms, which form the basis of the symbiotic relationship between territories and populations. This objective has been pursued according to the principles of subsidiarity between the Regions, Autonomous Provinces and Local Authorities of the Italian Alpine territories, committed to supporting the Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea in implementing a Joint Programme.
The overall objective, to be achieved through the technical and legislative mechanisms provided by many thematic areas of the Alpine Convention, consists in fostering a virtuous correlation between preserving Alpine biodiversity and ecosystems and promoting a green economy, built on the natural, cultural and socio-economic assets of mountain territories.
Indeed, as the Rio+20 results testify, this form of green economy can become a driver for the development of the entire Alpine Region, while at the same time fostering sustainable, smart and inclusive growth. Hence, it is now essential to focus efforts and available resources to ensure the implementation of the 2020 European objectives set by the Lisbon Agenda.
In this respect, the Italian Presidency is pressing hard on two main cross-sectoral issues. Firstly, the Alpine Convention is actively contributing to the process intended to promote the candidacy of the Alpine Region for an European Union Macroregional Strategy, an ad hoc Community instrument provided for under the Lisbon Treaty to promote territorial cooperation and cohesion among geographical areas with common opportunities and challenges. Secondly, it should be remembered that the EXPO 2015 themes “Feeding the Planet, Energy for life”, will provide us with a unique opportunity to show the world how mountain areas can contribute to pursuing green economy strategies by combining excellence in food production methods, techniques and standards, with approaches based on energy saving, energy efficiency and energy supply systems, as well as through the protection of natural resources.
As Italian Presidency of the Alpine Convention we are committed to ensuring that these opportunities revitalise the attractiveness of Alpine territories and their natural, cultural and socio-economic heritage that is to be defended against the challenges of climate and demographic changes.
Italian Minister of Environment, Land and Sea
In 2013, Italy will once again be presiding over the Alpine Convention after more than a decade. The first presidency by Italy dates back to 2001-2002, a particularly prosperous and fruitful period which culminated, at the Alpine Conference of 2002 in Merano, with the establishing of the Permanent Secretariat based in Innsbruck and with an operational annex in Bolzano, and with the creating of the official website of the Alpine Convention. These tools, together with other important results achieved in that period, have brought about significant improvements in the operation and implementing of the Convention.
Ten years later, the context in which the Italian Presidency is operating has significantly changed. The financial and economic crisis requires new priorities from the member countries, but I feel sure that, despite the economically difficult period, these two years can be as profitable as before. It is thus the intention of this Presidency to be fully committed to its leading role and to make a strong contribution to the combined effort to achieve the objectives envisaged in the Alpine Convention and its protocols, which are essential for the sustainable development of the Alpine region.
The recent ratification of the implementation protocols by the Italian Parliament can act as an encouraging starting point for continuing our work along lines designed to favour both preserving biodiversity and creating “green” infrastructures able to promote growth and employment.
Already at the time of the XII Alpine Conference in Poschiavo, we set up an “Energy” Platform and a “Mountain Forests” Working Group with the aim of further studying and strengthening the commitment by Alpine countries to promote a more concrete implementing of the relevant protocols. The Energy Platform will generally deal with optimising the use of renewable sources, and I hope that it will particularly focus on the “new hydroelectric” and testing of a free Alpine regional market of energy. The “Mountain Forests” Working Group will also deal with the contribution that the Alpine territory can provide – also acting as a ‘carbon sink’ – for the global objective of reducing CO2 emissions. The two new groups will work together and with previously established groups in order to help – in line with the results of Rio+20 – establish a ‘green economy’ as the driving force behind development.
I am also happy to announce that these two years of Italian Presidency will be characterised by the direct involvement of territorial bodies of the Italian Alps. The Ministry of the Environment has worked with regional and local authorities, some of the most important research institutes and with some of the associations concerned with defining the programme of the Presidency and for the signing of an agreement, endorsed on 15 November 2012 in Rome, which established an ad hoc Table of coordination. Lastly, I hope that this renewed collaboration between the relevant bodies of the Italian Alpine territory can be an example for launching a new, more extensive, efficient and effective coordination between the entire Alpine region and the rest of Europe.
I believe that the Alpine populations, whose situation has been made particularly difficult by demographic changes, should be thanked by us for looking after a strategic environment, and also be assured of our commitment and our contribution to improving their wellbeing and quality of life.