Mainstreaming climate change in regional development policy in Europe: Five insights from the 2007-2013 programming period

S. Hanger, C.C. Haug, T. Lung, L.M. Bouwer

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The EU Structural and Cohesion Funds (SCF) are potentially important instruments for supporting climate policy-related efforts and addressing unevenly distributed capacities for successful mitigation and adaptation across the EU. This paper reports on the level of climate mainstreaming in EU regional development policy in the 2007–2013 programming period: first, we explore the normative commitment to climate change concerns through an analysis of the National Strategic Reference Frameworks (NSRFs) in which all 27 Member States specify their development and funding priorities. Second, we analyze the substantive commitments by mapping financial allocations from the SCF related to climate mitigation and adaptation. Based on this, we gain five main insights, which are relevant to future mainstreaming efforts and which may have important implications for the wider debate on the purpose of European regional policy: (1) mitigation appears well mainstreamed in EU cohesion policies, both in normative and financial terms, whereas adaptation is hardly considered. (2) Rhetorical commitment to climate concerns in the strategy documents does not necessarily match financial allocations to respective priorities. (3) Neither mitigation nor adaptation-relevant priorities and allocations in the NSRFs can be linked to the ambitious mitigation targets and low adaptive capacity, respectively. (4) There is ample potential to improve climate-relevant SCF support in the area of adaptation, particularly given that several existing priority areas for funding coincide with the climate adaptation agenda. (5) By conditioning a minimum percentage of funds to be spent on priority areas (earmarking), cohesion policy also gains meaning as a burden sharing instrument for adaptation to climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)973-985
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number6
Early online date9 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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