Key to sustainable development in the Alpine region
Only a tenth of municipalities in the Alps have a population of more than 10,000 inhabitants. Yet they are home to far more than a third of the Alpine population. When it comes to research and policies for the Alps, however, the debate on peripheral mountain regions dominates over that on towns.
In the ninth Report on the State of the Alps, we reflect on the ecological, economic, and societal roles that towns play in the Alps’ sustainable development. On the one hand, as catalysts for problems caused by urban sprawl, climate change or economic transformation and, on the other hand, as an essential part of their solution.
The report considers the Alpine settlement system both transnationally and from the viewpoint of a town. It also offers two different approaches to the topic: Firstly, an analytical one, where maps, facts, and debates stimulate discussion. Secondly, an exploratory one, where five scenarios offer answers to the question of how Alpine towns might look in 2050.
As a thematic starting point, we relied on the European Environment Agency’s ‘six drivers of change’. They summarise the main uncertainties that challenge Europe’s progress towards sustainability. Adapted to the Alpine context, our report focuses on the forces of demography, environment and resources, economy and innovation, global positioning, governance and lifestyles. We are convinced that urban development that embraces these forces early on and knows how to manage them will sustainably improve the quality of life in the Alps.
We wish you a very pleasant read – let it inspire you!
Dr. Maria Lezzi, Director Swiss Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE
AUTHORS RSA9 ‘Alpine Towns’
What is an Alpine town? We all have different and unique images of Alpine towns – whether as rural communities, tourist resorts or university hubs – shaped by our personal interactions with these places. Furthermore, various historical or political circumstances have resulted in numerous small regional differences. There is no such thing as THE `Alpine town`, but rather a multitude of larger, smaller, well-connected, remote, growing or shrinking settlements that take on urban functions within their surroundings. This report is dedicated to all of them.
Our thanks go to the experts of this report’s working group. Their knowledge and enthusiasm to discuss with a broad audience helped to make it a success. Moreover, we would like to thank the research team of Professor Tobias Chilla, Dominik Bertram and Markus Lambracht from the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg for their creative approach to the settlement system. Likewise, we express our gratitude to Helen Lückge of Climonomics and Susanne Schatzinger of VS Consulting Team for designing and implementing the scenario process and conflating the knowledge into five concise pictures of the future.