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And yet it moves!

Jul 08, 2010 / Andreas Götz
Evian/F, March 2009. A huge, windowless room with cold artificial lighting. The only link to nature inside the conference centre is a spectacular bouquet of flowers picked, it would seem, from beyond the Alps. Seated at long tables are the Environment Ministers and State Secretaries of all the Alpine states.
10th Alpine Conference
Image caption:
10th Alpine Conference
The politicians representing the contracting states of the Alpine Convention (see box) have convened for the 10th Alpine Conference. As always, CIPRA is present as an observer organisation. The brief on this particular morning is to adopt a climate action plan for the Alps. On the table lies a sparse document, the result of two years of preparatory work under France’s chairmanship.
Alpbach/A, two years earlier. After strong political pressure exerted by CIPRA, the Ministers at the 9th Alpine Conference resolved to draw up a concrete action plan within two years. This meant that CIPRA really had its work cut out. Political pressure had to be maintained, and content specified. CIPRA itself drew up a catalogue of 19 measures and demands. For instance, it called for the passive house standard to be introduced for all new buildings, for stringent specifications relating to the renovation of existing buildings, and for improved financial subsidies. The efficiency of existing hydroelectric power plants had to be increased instead of building new installations in unspoilt river landscapes. Using examples taken from across the Alps, CIPRA showed that energy production could be tripled by renovating power plants while accompanying ecological measures improved the habitat.
At a meeting between CIPRA representatives and the Liechtenstein Environment Minister ahead of the Evian conference, the idea of an architecture competition for sustainable and eco-friendly construction and renovation was floated, with prize money worth EUR 50,000. The idea of the competition was to demonstrate what sustainable construction looks like today, how it promotes the regional economy, and is gentle not just on the climate but also on people’s wallets.
And indeed, the idea was approved by the Ministers and State Secretaries in Evian. Second result: by agreement with CIPRA, Germany suggested that a study be drawn up to show how the entire Alpine region could become carbon-neutral by 2050. A grand vision to which CIPRA is fully committed. Such a study could highlight the need for action and ways of achieving a future-oriented climate policy for the Alps. This proposal was also adopted. The study is also to be substantiated by means of a large-scale international implementation project.
These two projects are the meagre outcome of the entire action plan. But at least it’s something. Without CIPRA’s commitment not even these small measures would have been achieved. If the Alpine Convention wants to utilise its potential for co-operation to the full, it has to become much more dynamic and practice-oriented. In other words it has to become active – only then will it do justice to the name “Action Plan”.


CIPRA’s ideological framework
The Alpine Convention is a legally binding state treaty between the eight Alpine states Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the European Union. Its objectives are the protection and sustainable development of the Alps. They are substantiated in Implementing Protocols on issues such as Transport, Energy, Conservation of Nature, Spatial Planning and Sustainable Development, etc. CIPRA called for such a set of agreements when it was founded in 1952. They were implemented in 1991.
Source: Annual Report 2009 CIPRA International