Acting as a national inter- and transdisciplinary network, the forum promotes knowledge and discourse about landscape and landscape-changing processes. It advocates sustainable design, development and safety concepts. The forum focuses on the Alps as well as parks and protected areas.more

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Climate Protection and Landscape

FoLAP Kernthema: Klimaschutz und Landschaft
Image: Hansjakob Fehr, 1kilo

What impact are measures related to climate change having on Switzerland's landscapes – and also globally? To date, there has been virtually no discussion about the landscape relevance of comprehensive decarbonisation. What price, in terms of landscape, is society prepared to pay (for example) for sink strategies and the production or storage of renewable energies? This question must be introduced into political discussion before far-reaching changes to the landscape are planned and implemented.

Both the fight against climate change and the adaptation to it are likely to bring about profound changes to our current social and economic system – and are equally likely to reshape the landscape. Our country, which also bears great international responsibility with its above-average CO2 emissions, has committed to reducing climate-impacting gases to net zero CO2 equivalence by ratifying the Paris Climate Agreement. At the same time, adaptation strategies should be developed to withstand the increase in extreme events such as heatwaves and storms.

'Decarbonisation!' This is the imperative for switching society and the economy over from fossil fuels to electricity originating from renewable energy sources. A significant overall reduction in energy consumption is also essential, given that it will hardly be possible to replace oil, gas and coal with electrical energy on a one-to-one basis.

The expansion of renewable energy will not be possible without major interventions in the landscape. Viable hydropower reserves are largely exhausted, and photovoltaics, which are said to have great potential, require extensive space for the solar panels. Like wind turbines, they may significantly change the appearance of previously undeveloped landscapes, thus meeting with resistance from society in many places. Solutions will also have to be developed for energy storage, which, depending on the technology used, also entails impacts on the landscape.

The production of meat, milk and cheese releases large volumes of methane which is detrimental to the climate, so there is an urgent need to reduce livestock numbers or at least switch to other livestock species. This would have substantial effects on the landscape, as would climate-friendly cultivation methods and the strengthening of a regional circular economy.

Technology, for its part, has the means available to retrieve carbon from the atmosphere and store it. Another aim is to develop natural climate sinks such as wetlands or, in the case of forests, to preserve and reforest them.

More frequent extreme weather events are to be expected as a consequence of climate change. Additional protective structures will have to shield buildings and infrastructure against damage caused by landslides, debris flows, floods and other natural hazards. It may even be necessary to abandon residential buildings in particularly exposed locations. Protecting the climate and adapting to its changes will leave clear traces behind in the landscape.

Urban landscapes will also have to adjust to climate change. Green spaces and bodies of water will play an important role here in cooling urban heat islands. The appearance of buildings will also change if they increasingly produce their own electricity and store heat themselves.

From FoLAP's perspective, great attention should be paid to foreseeable goal conflicts between the expansion of renewable energy sources and new wilderness strategies that aim to leave open spaces for nature. The landscape and ecological costs should also be weighed up against the energy policy benefits. Furthermore, it is necessary to investigate the extent to which increased energy efficiency and/or economical energy usage (sufficiency) can help to preserve valuable natural and cultural landscapes.

The contribution that landscape can make to overcoming the climate crisis should also be considered. One question that arises is, How should the development of settlements be controlled so that they are better able to cope with the climate crisis? The importance of the landscape and/or its elements in their role as CO2 sinks should also be examined.

Likewise, FoLAP identifies the need for research regarding existing and future spatial development and landscape policy instruments. For example: what does 'net zero regional' mean, and what is needed for a region to achieve net zero? Would it be possible to develop climatic regions as regional policy pilot projects, and would nature parks be suitable for this purpose? Are the available instruments of landscape policy actually used to meet the challenges of climate change – or do new elements need to be added to the landscape policy toolbox?

Numerous official bodies and organisations in Switzerland focus on the interactions between landscape and climate change. Particular mention should be made here of numerous scientific institutions for landscape and biodiversity research, as well as the Federal government's energy research bodies and the climate research bodies of the Swiss Academies, the water and energy industries, and others. FoLAP endeavours to include all of them in the discussion on issues relating to the consequences of climate change for the landscape.

Authors: Dominik Siegrist (OST- Ostschweizer Fachhochschule), Adrienne Grêt-Regamey (ETH Zürich), Evelyn Coleman-Brantschen (HAFL), Jörg Balsiger (Universität Genf), Matthieu Raemy (Federal Office for Agriculture FOAG)


Autorenteam: Dominik Siegrist (Fachhochschule OST), Adrienne Grêt-Regamey (ETH Zürich), Evelyn Coleman-Brantschen (HAFL), Jörg Balsiger (UniGE), Matthieu Raemy (BLW)

Notes: In its five core topics (Landscape and Health, Landscape Culture, Lifestyles and Landscape, Climate Protection and Landscape, and Spatial Relationships), FoLAP has identified aspects where action is most needed in terms of sustainable landscape development. To promote political discourse and the social transformation process, there is a need not only to pool existing knowledge but also to invest more extensive effort in additional research and to step up the dialogue between research and practice. FoLAP understands the core topics as its own mission, and a mission for its community: they therefore appear on FoLAP's agenda as an invitation to institutions and players to become actively involved in these topic areas.

Political and economic relevance and topicality of the subject

Current popular initiatives: Biodiversity Initiative, Landscape Initiative, Glacier Initiative

- Long-term Climate Strategy to 2050
- Energy Strategy 2050
- Swiss Landscape Concept
- 2030 Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS/SNE)

Paris Agreement und COP

Relevant key questions

Effects of the expansion of renewable energy production and storage plants on the landscape (including 'Baukultur' and biodiversity)? Goal conflict between renewable energy production and new wilderness strategies?
Impacts of adaptation and mitigation goals on urban landscapes
Which scenarios are emerging in connection with the new glacier forefields and glacial lakes? And which scenarios are emerging as regards the planning and construction of wind energy plants, geothermal energy, storage installations and transmission lines?
What landscape-related and ecological costs are offset by which benefits in terms of energy policy? Which international and cross-border interactions are affected?
Can a strategy aimed at energy efficiency and energy-saving (sufficiency) contribute to the preservation of valuable natural and cultural landscapes? (cf. FoLAP core topic: 'Health')
Which implications arise for Switzerland, with its above-average CO2 emissions, in respect of landscape developments outside our own country?

How is the landscape (and biodiversity) changing due to the direct and indirect consequences of global warming?
What contribution can landscape make to overcoming the climate crisis, taking account of the expected development of landscape and settlement in Switzerland going forward?
In particular, how can the development of urban settlement be controlled so we are better able to overcome the climate crisis?
What role can landscape play in terms of carbon dioxide sink strategies, not only in cities but also in connection with climate-friendly agriculture or the withdrawal of agriculture from the area?
How does landscape contribute to the cooling of residential and recreational areas, and to promoting biodiversity (blue-green infrastructure)?
What changes to the landscape result from changes in leisure usage, e.g. decline in snow sports and new, snow-independent outdoor trends?

To what extent – if at all – are existing instruments used in connection with the challenges of climate change? Do we need expanded or new instruments for landscape policy?
What implications does the net zero strategy have for spatial and landscape planning?
What does 'net zero regional' mean, and what is needed for a region to achieve net zero? Can climatic regions be developed as regional policy pilot projects? Would the nature parks be suitable for this purpose?
What are the international effects of a domestic net zero strategy? And conversely, how do international developments and interaction agendas affect Switzerland's attainment of a net zero strategy?

On request, we will send you the complete core topic papers including references to sources. (The core topic papers are expanded and edited from time to time.)
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