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cc.alps climate project: win-win with science

Bruno Abegg

Bruno Abegg © CIPRA International

Swiss economic geographer Bruno Abegg has been working with CIPRA for three years. A scientist and a political organisation – how can that work? “It is a clash between two ways of thinking,” says the 45-year-old, which is precisely what he finds so exciting. As the scientific director of the cc.alps project he examines the way in which regions, communities and businesses in the Alps are responding to climate change. CIPRA campaigns to ensure that climate response measures are sustainable. “My research work has always been application-oriented,” says Abegg, “which is why it’s important to me that my findings flow into practical work for the environment.”
Partnerships with science have been part and parcel of CIPRA’s concept since its founding almost 60 years ago. Abegg’s research on climate change for example has been published in CIPRA compacts (see page 18). Its purpose is to place the organisation’s political demands on a sound scientific basis. “It’s a question of credibility.” So is it all about mutual benefit? “Yes, although we do operate within a sphere of conflicting priorities.” Scientists are used to analysing the full complexity of a given topic. By contrast lobbying is about simplifying and, in some cases, about sounding alarms. Reconciling the two requires mutual trust. In the compacts the political demands were kept clearly separate from the scientific facts. “But each of theresearchers involved had to decide whether or not, on the basis of the findings, he or she was prepared to stand behind the demands.”
Abegg’s specialist field, economic geography, is able to give answers when it’s a matter of adapting to climate change. For example in tourism. “The majority of decision makers in ski resorts want everything to stay just as it is.” They want winter-sports enthusiasts, ideally masses of them, to remain as the main source of income. “But that means the resorts remain dependent on the snow.” Something which in the future will be an unreliable commodity. The cc.alps research teams have noted that, in many places, the response has been very one-sided, i.e. even more snow cannons and developing slopes at even higher altitudes. Previously unspoilt areas are to become part of the alpine ski circus. So it’s not just conflicts with nature conservation that are foreseeable. “New developments scarcely make economic sense either; they are expensive and often not worthwhile for the municipalities concerned,” says Abegg, explaining one of the key findings of his research.
There are other ways. Outstanding examples of how climate change mitigation can be “taken one step further” have been commended by CIPRA in a competition held across the Alps. For the competition Bruno Abegg’s team drew up a simplified evaluation matrix. “It enabled us to show which measures really are sustainable.” For him, this is yet another example of how a long-standing relationship between science and environmental organisation can be extremely fertile.

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Keeping a cool head in the face of climate change: With its project “cc.alps – climate change: thinking one step ahead!” CIPRA is harnessing and disseminating the knowledge available on intelligent climate protection and sustainable adaptation measures. And one of the focal points is raising the awareness of those concerned and the key players.
In 2010 CIPRA showcased a number of successful examples as well as some poorly conceived ones. These examples were publicised among decision makers and the media. CIPRA experts addressed issues such as energy self-sufficient regions and tourism and published background reports on various aspects of climate change mitigation (see compacts page 19). CIPRA also offered a more resolute alternative to the woolly decisions adopted by the international community in Cancùn, Mexico: the Alps are to become a model region in matters of climate protection – climate-neutral by 2050! Further Information: www.cipra.org/cc.alps
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Source: Annual Report 2010 CIPRA International
www.cipra.org/en/CIPRA/cipra-international