Association européenne des élus de montagne (AEM)
  • Date submitted: 1 Nov 2011
  • Stakeholder type: Major Group
  • Name: Association européenne des élus de montagne (AEM)
  • Submission Document: Download
Keywords: Climate change (3 hits),

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AEM?s position paper on RIO +20 conference ? The crucial role of mountains in the achievement of Rio +20 objectives

The European association of elected representatives from mountain regions (AEM) welcomes the RIO + 20 conference and especially the consultation of the stakeholders in preparing this event that can be a milestone similar to the Earth summit in 1992. In the outcomes of this previous conference, mountain territories? issues have been acknowledged, thanks to Chapter 13 of Agenda 21. This highlight has permitted the creation of numerous organization dedicated to the preservation and the valorization of mountain territories and people.

Europe?s mountain ranges have similar issues to other mountain ranges on the rest of the planet. Ecosystems are in danger, as well as the quality of life of mountain people. In spite of Chapter 13, mountains are still in critical condition, because of the climate challenge but also because of the economic conditions (crisis, lack of access to services). Moreover, ?one size fits all? policies do not take into account mountains added costs and specificities. To sum up, mountains deserve a specific attention but they are still too often considered as only rural or strictly marginal.

AEM has been contributing to the European debate for more than 20 years. Our association has called for a better acknowledgment of mountain specificities within EU?s policy making.

For a long time, policies related to mountain territories have mainly focused on tourism and agriculture (e.g. natural disadvantage compensations from the CAP). However, AEM?s lobbying has contributed to a shift. Indeed, the Lisbon Treaty (adopted in 2009) now grants a specific attention to regions with a permanent natural or demographic disadvantage, such as mountain regions (art.174). Mountains are also naturally considered as a key element of the EU official objective of territorial cohesion (art.3). As a consequence, it is now established in the Treaty that European mountain territories should benefit from a particular attention from all of EU sectoral policies (art. 175).

Green Growth and mountain regions

In 2010, the European Union has launched a new global strategy. Europe 2020 defines EU?s priorities for the next 10 years which are gathered in three broad objectives: smart, inclusive and green growth.

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Green economy is also the main theme on RIO +20 agenda. AEM fully agrees on the fact that a new model of sustainable development must be set up in order to tackle the Climate change challenge.

AEM has lead numerous works that prove that mountain territories have a lot of assets regarding this objective and, hence, will have a role to play at the EU but also at the global level. Besides agriculture and tourism, mountain assets are obvious: they include most of the water resources (which implies most of the hydroelectric production), a large part of the wood industry, many specialized and precision industries, flexicurity as a result of pluriactivity and seasonality, local development through formation and a great biodiversity, The economic profile of mountain regions is deeply linked to environment, biodiversity and landscape, while at the same time ecological innovation and green growth are becoming a major dynamic at the European and international level (as RIO +20 proves it).

AEM argues that mountain ranges have to renew and promote their economic potential considering their environmental assets and their traditional know how. Of all territories, mountain regions are aware of the importance of the mitigation and the adaptation to Climate change. This issue has to trigger new model of endogenous development. Such sustainable development must be based on mountain assets, be well balanced between preservation of ecosystems, as it will be a key element to green growth and the production of carbon free energy.

Because of its specificities and its wealth in natural asset, mountain territories can become pilots for new initiative based on green growth and social inclusion.

However, the environmental challenge is far from being abstract. It implies that every territory, every ecosystem, must be taken into account and must be the target of tailor made policies. As a result, mountain people and stakeholders have to be associated to the policy making in a broad multilevel governance based system.

Multilevel governance, cooperation and territorial cohesion

AEM calls for the setting up of a multilevel governance that associate every level of government and stakeholders to the policy making. In Europe, ?one size fits all? policies that do not take into account the territory have proved to be misadapted, with the failure of the Lisbon Strategy. This type of governance could also be implemented at the global level for environmental issues. New academic works lead by the University of Geneva on Regional Environmental Governance show that cooperation between regions with the same ecosystem is mandatory to tackle Climate change and shape adapted policies. Mountain ranges have the particularity to be often transboundary. They request a special type of governance that could then be implemented at a global scale. Once again, mountain ranges request cooperation, which will be a key element for the success of RIO +20 and the following initiatives. However, such a model is not ?mountain exclusive? and should be applied at a global scale.

With the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union has adopted a new objective: territorial cohesion. This aim goes hand in hand with the need of multilevel governance and cooperation. Territorial cohesion stipulates has assets and should then contribute to EU strategies. No region should be left behind as every territory has potentials.

To achieve this, a key element is the concept of functional area. Each area should be defined according to its territorial cohesion. The actual EU debate on macroregional strategies is another sign of this tendency. Macro regions aim at creating more synergies between the various strands of the cohesion policy, in a more efficient and relevant way than with segmented sectorial policies. There is a clear interregional added-value regarding the European territorial challenges "transform diversity into strength" and development of macro-regional strategic approaches that clearly fits to mountain ranges. The integration of policies, the acknowledgment of territorial cohesion both go beyond traditional administrative border would also be great inputs to RIO +20.


AEM understands that RIO +20 will not include mountain orientated initiatives, as the earth summit did. However, in order to reach a model of endogenous development, mountain ranges need reinforcement and development of regional, national and international (multilevel) governance that articulate mountains and lowlands, facilitate transboundary coordination and support capacity building and the exchange of good practices for innovation and sustainable development. Mountain territories are different. They need a specific attention granted by the Earth Summit even if it has not been sufficient, as mountain ranges are still treated as marginal environments.

Green economy and the new focus on environment is positive news for mountain ranges. They have a lot of assets to valorize. But environmental issues imply a new model of governance and a focus on each territory specificity.

Since 1991, AEM brings together elected representatives, from mayors to members of the European Parliament, local and regional authorities from mountain areas, as well as various similar networkds. AEM gathers, directly and indirectly, members from 12 000 municipalities, 100 provinces, 50 regions from 11 European Member States. The composition of the Executive Board is based on a political and geographical balance.

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