The area of permanent settlement is very limited in most parts of the Alps. Promoting spatial structures focusing on this challenge and, at the same time, being in line with the transformation towards climate-neutrality seems to be crucial. An Alpine wide concept that assigns spatial planning a key role for climate action in the Alpine area would be a great challenge on the one hand side but could also offer a big pool of opportunities for mitigation and adaptation measures on the other hand side. In most Alpine countries, municipalities play a critical role in spatial development and the implementation of spatial planning objectives. Defining recommendations for sustainable spatial structures at this level is an essential part.
The task of spatial planning is to coordinate and balance different land uses in a way that respects ecological, economic and social needs. In the context of climate change in the Alps, these ecological needs are no longer restricted to the Alps, but acquire a global dimension. In regard to settlement and transport infrastructure, spatial planning also means planning for inhabitants, visitors and businesses to facilitate their activities in rational and efficient spatial structures and connections. Spatial planning therefore aims at sustainably using resources taking into account changing conditions (i.e. climate change). This cross-cutting issue seems like a framework for many actions connected to climate adaptation and climate mitigation and is reflected in the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe and its vision of no net land-take by 2050.
Further, climate change increases the spatial pressure on so-far unspoiled, natural high alpine areas, especially for ski resort expansion and water reservoirs (for artificial snow as well as hydropower) but also for agriculture in the law-land/valleys to prevent water scarcity.
Statistical data on land-consumption and Net0 based at municipal level shall be harmonised across the Alps. Further, data on the impact of climate scenarios (precipitation, temperatures) on the land use shall be provided where they have a cross-border relevance, e.g., the impacts on cross-border infrastructure, energy production, settlement development.
Start a moderated discussion about growth and shrinking in the Alpine area. The consolidation of spatial structures is needed as well as making deconstruction and healthy shrinking imaginable/attractive as a solution.
An exchange of information on the link between climate action and spatial planning is needed. Make use of the communication and awareness raising campaign “Soil protection is climate protection and vice versa” of pathway IP_S1 (Soil) to communicate the connection between land-take and loss of soil, the limited availability of land as a resource, and the role of soil as carbon sink and the climate-action-related benefits of containing sprawl, e.g., the possibility to provide regional food products.
Municipalities are playing a key role in the development of spatial structures. A guidance for municipalities in the Alpine Convention Perimeter to analyse their potential for sustainable land use shall be developed based on existing approaches and tools. Internal development potential and balance of building land are crucial topics. To foster the exchange, best practices from Mayor to Mayor should be collected and disseminated (for instance via conferences or a twinning system).
Secondary residences, vacancies, priority areas / crop rotation areas and brown fields, access to inner-urban development potential, benefits of land saving resp. densification vs. urban sprawl, donut-effect vs. strengthening the town centre, touristic infrastructure … the biggest challenges defined in step 2 shall be collected. Experts on the national level meet, discuss and generate transferable recommendations to overcome those challenges.
Due to limited areas for permanent settlement, specific transport and mobility needs as well as specific demographic challenges, spatial planning in the Alps already is an important cross-cutting policy field. Supporting the transition towards climate-neutral and climate-resilient Alps now gives a new role to spatial planning: integrating mitigation and adaptation actions into all activities related to spatial planning would ensure an optimal starting-point for other sectoral activities and would avoid lock-in effects with respect to settlement and infrastructure development.
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