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The Alps as the focus of climate policy

Nov 15, 2017
Temperatures in the Alps are rising faster than the global average. The search for solutions is not limited to the World Climate Conference being held in Bonn, Germany.
Image caption:
Andreas Pichler, Jochen Flasbarth, Heike Summer, and Helmut Hojesky at COP23 (f.l.t.r.) © Eike Christiansen/BMUB

From 6 to 17 November 2017 the World Climate Summit (COP23) is meeting in Bonn, Germany. It is being hosted by the South Pacific island of Fiji; but mountainous regions such as the Alps are also represented there. Locals every day see the effects of global warming in the sensitive ecosystem of the Alps: glaciers are melting, mountains are collapsing, water courses are flooding and snowfall is dwindling. The climate appeal of the Alpine municipalities at the 2015 COP21 in Paris was an attempt to bring their situation to the negotiating table with the aim of promoting the importance of binding and ambitious objectives.

The target of a “climate-neutral Alps” by 2050, set by the Alpine states at the 2016 Alpine Conference in Grassau, Germany, remains distant. The establishment of an Alpine Climate Board will help. Representatives from all the Alpine countries are together revising the Action Plan on Climate Change adopted under the Alpine Convention in 2009 and are defining measures to implement it. As Helmut Hojesky, chairman of the Alpine Climate Advisory Committee, told CIPRA in an interview, the Committee has already drafted a report on existing initiatives regarding climate change, which could be used to identify possible fields of action. “The biggest challenge is how best to incorporate climate protection and adaptation to climate change into future mandates and activities”, he said.

Climate protection from the grass roots

The Alpine states are relying on their municipalities for implementation, as co-operation with these offers enormous potential. Their proximity to citizens makes them effective partners for climate protection. The “Climate Partnership of Alpine Communities” was thus presented on 6 November 2017, the opening day of COP23. In partnership with the “Alliance in the Alps” and “Alpine Town of the Year” networks, as well as the support of the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, CIPRA International wants to actively strengthen the role of towns and cities in the Alpine region in increasing climate protection in coming years.

The framework conditions and resources must nevertheless be provided by governments, with responsibilities clearly delineated. While the politicians have largely reserved the functions of speech-making and decision-making for themselves, comparatively little has happened in terms of action. This is not necessarily a problem – provided the responsibilities for implementation and the framework conditions are both clear. Andreas Pichler, Director of CIPRA International, states: “Actions speak louder than words.” Seen from this angle, numerous municipalities and committed citizens have put climate protection right at the top on their agenda. “Other municipalities, not to mention politicians at higher levels, can learn from them”, he says.

The Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention has provided its first insights into the activities of the Alpine Climate Board: a report and brochure, “Climate change – How it affects the Alps and what we can do”, are available from the Alpine Convention website.


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