The Territorial Agenda of the European Union: Progress for Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation?

Article excerpt

The Territorial Agenda of the European Union (Territorial Agenda) document agreed by EU Member States at Leipzig in May 2007 aims at strengthening territorial cohesion in Europe and supporting the growth and jobs and sustainable development objectives of the EU's Lisbon and Gothenburg strategies. It seeks to foster and reconcile sustainable economic growth and job creation, as well as social and ecological development in all EU regions. In light of these aspirations, this article assesses: whether the Territorial Agenda document can be considered to represent progress for climate change mitigation and adaptation when its policy goals are set against the climate change dimensions of its predecessor document, the European Spatial Development Perspective; the evidence and impacts of climate change in Europe; and the EU's wider evolving policy response to climate change. It concludes that the Territorial Agenda can be seen to indicate some progress in the treatment of climate change, even if the territorial cohesion thinking and spatial model that underpin the document continue to be viewed, it seems, primarily as prerequisites for achieving a European social model which aims to couple sustainable economic growth with the achievement of social and economic cohesion.

The 'Territorial Agenda of the European Union: Towards a More Competitive and Sustainable Europe of Diverse Regions' (Territorial Agenda) was agreed by EU Member States at Leipzig, Germany, in May 2007 as a non-binding statement of principles intended to inform sustainable territorial development across the EU. The Territorial Agenda builds on the earlier European Spatial Development Perspective (ESDP) document, adopted in 1999 (CEC, 1999), and can in many respects be seen as a successor to this document (Faludi, 2007a). The Territorial Agenda aims at strengthening territorial cohesion in Europe and supporting the economic, jobs and sustainable development objectives of the EU's Lisbon and Gothenburg strategies. Its stated goal is to contribute to and reconcile 'sustainable economic growth and job creation as well as social and ecological development in all EU regions' (EU Ministers for Spatial Planning and Development, 2007a, 23). The document acknowledges that Europe is facing 'major new territorial challenges today and that these include the regionally diverse impacts of climate change on the EU territory and its neighbours' (EU Ministers for Spatial Planning and Development, 2007a, 25). An emphasis on climate change is also to be found in the background document, which was produced to provide an evidence-base for the process of preparing the Territorial Agenda (the Territorial States and Perspectives of the European Union, TSPEU). In the foreword to this document, the German Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, Wolfgang Tiefensee, notes that 'climate change is identified as the first challenge to the regions and cities of Europe' (EU Ministers for Spatial Planning and Development, 2007b, 3). The TSPEU states that 'the impacts of climate change are of increasing importance for European regional economies and their need to adapt' (EU Ministers for Spatial Planning and Development, 2007b, 21-22), and the term 'climate change' appears 26 times across the document's 80 pages (in comparison with the term 'competitiveness', which is mentioned 25 times).

In light of the stated aspirations of the Territorial Agenda, this article assesses whether its policy orientations can be considered to represent progress for climate change mitigation and adaptation when these are set against: the evidence and impacts of climate change in Europe; the climate change dimensions of the earlier ESDP; and the EU's wider evolving policy response to climate change.

The article is structured as follows. The following section outlines the approach and measures adopted in relation to climate change in the ESDP. Attention is given to debates surrounding the spatial development model and priorities espoused by the ESDP and the European spatial planning agenda of the 1990s and early 2000s. …