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Climate change adaptation and resilience through landscape transition

Ana Seixas

The Territorial Agenda 2030 (TA2030) pilot action Climate change adaptation and resilience through landscape transition, led by Portugal, aims to develop experimental integrated approaches for rural shrinking areas in more vulnerable territories.

It focuses on thematic priorities both at European and national levels: climate change adaptation and territorial resilience; ecosystem services and the green economy; endogenous resources and natural capital; and governance and stakeholder engagement.

This pilot action is closely related to two priorities in the TA2030, namely Functional regions, under the objective of a just Europe, and Healthy environment, under the objective of a green Europe, and also meets the EU initiative Long-term vision for rural areas, which aims to change the perception of rural areas as depressed, ageing areas with no endogenous resources.

At the national level, it aims to implement the National Spatial Planning Policy Programme and the recently published National Landscape Transformation Programme for vulnerable territories, which supports the Landscape Planning and Management Programme for the national pilot case in the Algarves Serras de Monchique and Silves, in southern Portugal.

It is, therefore, an experimental project with a new approach, as well as an opportunity to share experiences and exchange ideas with other European countries on how to tackle the difficulties in the implementation of these types of programmes. Implementation that can succeed only if supported by a long-term commitment at all levels of governance, based on better regulations and implementation designs and better and articulated EU and national funding mechanisms.

“This pilot action is closely related to two priorities in the TA2030: Functional regions, under the objective of a just Europe, and Healthy environment

From a landscape transition approach, the four thematic priorities of the pilot action can be envisaged as follows:

Integrating climate change adaptation and territorial resilience: Territories need to be better prepared for extreme events, in which risks may become greater and costly (forest fires, loss of biodiversity, reduction in agricultural productivity). It is thus essential to anticipate the changes and their impacts and to envisage and mitigate their foreseeable effects, considering the fact that each territory has distinct capacities to absorb these changes, as well as limits, while maintaining their identity at the level of essential structures and functions.

“The overall objective of the pilot action is to observe the impacts of or any conflicts between European, national and regional policies

Fostering ecosystem services and the green economy: Biodiversity must be considered a heritage component and an asset in danger of irreversible losses that must be defended and protected.

By aiming for greater recognition of the social and economic value of ecosystems and the services they provide, it is important to improve communication with citizens, by underpinning a greater collective awareness of the importance of these services in promoting economic activities and job creation, and thus promote the integration of ecosystem services into economic value chains.

Mobilising endogenous resources and improving natural capital valorisation: Natural capital must be assumed to be and pursued as a differentiating and enhancing factor of territories. Rural areas should manage natural resources as assets by combining natural capital, landscape and ecosystem services, and considering them tradable assets that will satisfy and attract external populations (tourists and new residents).

Building innovative processes of governance and stakeholder engagement: Landscape transition takes years to be accomplished. It implies major long-term commitments for all actors involved (planners, local and regional politicians, stakeholders) and new collaborative processes (national, inter-municipal and local cooperation; public and private stakeholder collaboration), and, mostly, it requires stakeholder involvement. Developing a sense of ownership with stakeholders is paramount in the process, as they are the real landscape transformation agents.

To attain its objectives, this pilot action also integrates work that is in progress within the framework of ESPONs project Territorial Impacts of Natural Disasters’ TITAN - SOPORT, as a project spin-off.

This article appears in A regional geography of COVID-19

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