Increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leads to climate change. Adaptation to climate change means adaptation to the unavoidable consequences of these changes. That is why, alongside climate protection, adaptation is the second important pillar of the Lower Austrian Climate & Energy Roadmap for 2020 to 2030.
In this context, the province of Lower Austria supports the establishment of climate adaptation regions (KLAR! regions).
From the very beginning, the KLAR! Programme has been very well received by Lower Austria’s municipalities. The five Lower Austrian KLAR! pioneers of the initial phase have become 25 active KLAR! regions. Each KLAR! region consists of at least 2 municipalities; on average, the regions have a size of about 10 municipalities.
Currently, 268 Lower Austrian municipalities with about 600,000 inhabitants are serviced by the KLAR! programme. The province of Lower Austria supports KLAR! with lectures, support and advisory services. The Lower Austrian Environment and Energy Agency (eNu) plays an important role here and is the central contact point for climate change adaptation in Lower Austria. eNu provides special support to all Lower Austrian KLAR! regions in terms of employing four facilitators to guide and coordinate all actions.
With the help of the KLAR! programme, model regions throughout Austria continue developing their tailor-made adaptation concepts and regionally tailored measures, and subsequently, begin to implement them. Each region develops a 2–3-year work programme with 10 concrete measures.
The measures to adapt to climate change are manifold. They affect buildings and settlements as well as agriculture and forestry. Adaptation measures are necessary, for example, due to the increased occurrence of extreme weather events like heatwaves, heavy rain, and storms. In agriculture and forestry, more resistant varieties to drought or pest infestation must be planted. But precautionary measures by the population in the event of natural disasters such as floods also fall under the topic of climate change adaptation.
White wine despite a warmer climate. That’s the goal of the Lower Traisental & Fladnitztal region, known for its rivers and vinyards. In 2017, it became one of the first KLAR! regions after locals noticed the burden of climate change on the regional environment: “We have too little groundwater and at the same time far too frequent heavy rainfall”, says KLAR! manager Alexander Simader, citing the resultant high temperatures and soil sealing. To combat these, local farmers started a cooperative focused on the sustainable use of water in agriculture. In addition, they are working to counter flooding from the Traisen river. Going forwards, the region will preserve fresh air corridors and vegetation, as necessary and decisive influences on the local microclimate.
For over 15 years, the 32 municipalities of the Bucklige Welt and Wechselland regions have worked together toward the goal of a sustainable future – one that is as independent of energy imports as possible. Specifically, they are working on the following projects: Avoiding bottlenecks in the drinking water supply, minimising potential hazards from severe weather events, safeguarding forest stands, and preserving biodiversity. The region expects broad acceptance from the population, as this is an important guarantee that the Bucklige Welt will be able to adapt proactively and in the long term to the upcoming changes caused by climate change.
Near the border with Czechia, the Retz region is one of the driest in Central Europe. As such, the area is alert to the increasing risks associated with drought and heatwaves. To adapt, the region will develop targeted water cycles that keep rainwater for as long as possible, bearing in mind seepage, retention, storage, etc. Another big problem is wind erosion. In addition to soil transport, the earth also becomes dried out. To combat this, the region is planning “green infrastructure” that will both mitigate wind erosion and reinforce the natural habitat of local species. Finally, the region also recognises that climate change leads to new species moving to Retz. In light of this, the region is exploring the possibility to establish an industry for the production of olives and red wine, helping to safeguard the regional economy.
Six municipalities in Vorarlberg have come together to form the KLAR! Model Region “Plan B”. The initiative fosters effective ways to deal with climate change, such as the cross-municipal planning and design of: mobility infrastructure, recreational areas, flood protection projects, biotope networks and public green spaces.
The cooperation goes further, with awareness-raising campaigns promoting sustainable behaviour among citizens, businesses, and tourists – towards more personal responsibility and a better understanding of climate change.
Due to the increase in average temperatures caused by climate change, the Pasterzen Glacier has seen a retreat of about 50% of its area since 1848. As well as the general change in the weather situation, the region is obliged to counteract the negative consequences of this and implement new measures. The first step has been to instigate an effective awareness-raising and education process among the population. In addition, the municipalities are initiating measures to protect against natural disasters, including: flood protection, slope stabilisation, protected forests, and monocultures in agriculture and forestry.
Further information (in German): www.klar-anpassungsregionen.at ; www.enu.at/klimawandelanpassung ; KLAR_Broschuere2021.pdf (klar-anpassungsregionen.at)