The roundtable, side event of the 21st European Week of Cities and Regions, gathered EU Commission officials and regional representatives from Lombardy, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Occitanie.

Working together across borders, with concrete actions or lessons learned exchanged among regions, were some of the critical aspects to addressing climate change’s far-reaching impacts effectively.

Brussels, 23th of October – The MAIA project, dedicated to fostering collaboration and synergies among various climate science EU projects, convened its 2nd Policy Roundtable last Tuesday in Brussels. Furthermore, the occasion doubled as the official unveiling of the MAIA Project, with a press conference and event concluding the debate.

The roundtable, hosted as a side event of the 21st European Week of Cities and Regions, gathered a distinguished panel of speakers, including Ms. Géraldine Mahieu, Director DG ECFIN.B (Economic and Financial Affairs), European Commission; Mr Raffaele Cattaneo, Undersecretary for International and European Relations, Government of the Lombardy Region; Mr Aitor Zulueta, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies, Vitoria-Gasteiz (Basque Country); Mr Simon Moulines, Mission Director at the Occitanie region; and Mr. Juan Terradez Mas, Project Manager in the Pyrenean Climate Change Observatory.

These notable speakers offered valuable insights on transborder collaboration, knowledge exchange, and innovation for climate adaptation in their respective regions and domains of expertise. The roundtable, moderated by María José Sanz (BC3/MAIA), united the experts and policymakers to stress the urgency of climate change adaptation, emphasizing the need for interdisciplinary cooperation and a shift from mitigation to adaptation as the current and pressing focus.

Balancing the Books for Climate Resilience

Ms. Geráldine Mahieu stressed the importance of understanding the economics of climate change. Climate change involves significant annual costs, which escalate depending on the climate scenario and the impacts considered, but estimates should be considered lower-bound and are subject to a high degree of uncertainty in any case.

Recently, the main elements of the “Fit for 55” package have been adopted with carbon pricing, targets, standards and support measures. Additional investment needs are high and while a large part of the EU budget and of the recovery instrument called Next Generation EU are dedicated to climate change, we are also working to improve the environment for private investment to undertake the lion’s share of the needed investments. In terms of climate adaptation, the 2021 EU Adaptation strategy was presented in 2021 and, among others, highlights the need for more and better data on climate risks and losses. Funding sources like the Recovery and Resilience Facility already provide financing, but accurately estimating the costs to adapt to a changing climate is complex mainly due to climate scenario uncertainties and clarity on the adaptation scenarios on the ground.

In conclusion, addressing climate change requires collaboration between the public and private sectors and better data for informed decision-making to achieve a sustainable and resilient future.

Leadership and innovation in climate adaptation for regions and cities

Mr Raffaele Cattaneo stressed the urgency of adaptation to climate change. He highlighted that adaptation policies must be implemented at the regional level and tailored to each area’s unique characteristics and challenges. Concrete actions, lessons learned from different regions, and sharing experiences are essential in shaping effective adaptation strategies. Cattaneo also emphasised the importance of working on transborder climate adaptation policies, as climate change knows no boundaries. He called for establishing a regional network for climate action to facilitate collaboration and knowledge exchange among regions.

Mr Simon Moulines, acknowledged that regions like Occitanie have focused more on climate change mitigation and need to catch up regarding adaptation strategies. He emphasised the role of the public sector in driving adaptation efforts and the responsibility of regions towards their inhabitants. Moulines outlined the specific challenges faced by Occitanie in the Mediterranean shore and the Pyrenees Mountains and the importance of cooperating with neighbouring regions like Catalonia. He stressed that working together and sharing experiences can be a source of inspiration for developing effective adaptation strategies.

Mr Juan Terrádez Mas underlined the sensitivity of mountain regions to climate change and the critical need for cooperation to adapt effectively. He emphasised that joint action is more efficient in addressing climate change impacts.

The OPCC (Observatoire Pyrénéen du Changement Climatique), involving Spain, Andorra, and France, is a critical cooperation network in the Pyrenees region. It aims to unite stakeholders to generate tools and initiatives for climate action, prioritising cooperation and adaptation.

Mr Aitor Zulueta shed light on the unique characteristics of Vitoria-Gasteiz in climate and sustainability matters. Despite its smaller size, Vitoria-Gasteiz is fully integrated into missions like “100 climate neutral and Smart Cities by 2030,” “Adaptation to Climate Change,” and “A Soil Deal for Europe,” demonstrating its commitment to comprehensive climate action. The city is currently engaged in six projects across various sectors, including a circular economy strategy and the electrification of 100% of public transport. The “Green Ring” project in the city’s South, aimed at addressing soil contamination, is a notable example of Vitoria’s multifaceted approach to climate resilience. Zulueta also emphasised their work in governance on five levels, including EU missions, technical and administrative management, networks, stakeholder engagement, and political administration involving regional, provincial, and municipal entities.

Collaborative pathways

During the dialogue, Mr Raffaele Cattaneo stressed the importance of multilevel governance to address transborder issues, citing examples of collaboration in his experience, such as resolving river issues with Switzerland. The conversation also highlighted the importance of a changing mentality and the need for cooperation from the ground up.

Mr. Simon Moulines pointed out that while there are solutions to Mediterranean challenges, their implementation requires a focus on governance issues across different territories. He stressed the importance of thinking at a high level and acting at the local level.

Mr Juan Terradez Mas addressed the challenges of implementing adaptation strategies and the need for complementary actions that territories can upscale. He emphasised the commitment of regions with the competencies to implement these strategies as a crucial aspect of transborder cooperation. The roundtable discussed the importance of collaboration in addressing climate change, replicating best practices, and transferring knowledge. It also highlighted the complex yet legitimising governance structure of OPCC, which involves seven territories.

The event concluded with a solid call to move from theory to action in the fight against climate change, focusing on a systemic approach to address the cross-cutting nature of climate change across bioregions.

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