Coastal regions have specific characteristics which can make decarbonisation more challenging. 

On the one hand, it can be difficult or impossible to control the carbon impact that international maritime flows have on the territory. And being border regions, usually without a physical land connection to neighbouring countries, can have a negative influence on the continuity of public policies. On the other hand, these regions have some unique opportunities, for example, to harness renewable energies like offshore wind. 

Either way , maritime regions, and in particular those at national borders, face a number of specific issues, which can benefit from a tailored approach and exchange of knowledge. 

This has been the focus of the PASSAGE project (Public AuthoritieS Supporting low-cArbon Growth in European maritime border regions) led by Pas-de-Calais County Council.

'Maritime regions face a number of unique challenges, including how to jointly manage a common body of water with neighbouring countries. Joined-up approaches and co-operation are needed, cross-border, to reduce the consequences of maritime flows and activities on the climate,' explained Marie Colette, of Pas-de-Calais County Council.

To assist the project regions in introducing low-carbon initiatives, the project identified a number of promising practices which it recommended for uptake by other regions.

Low carbon tourism across the channel

Both Pas-de-Calais, on the French side of the English channel, and Kent, on the  British side, are popular regions for tourists, but a large share of visitors come by car, facilitated by the Eurotunnel and regular ferries crossing the channel. Both regions have taken action to persuade visitors to leave the car at home.

In Kent, upgrades have been made to the Public Rights of Way network, which now includes the England Coastal Path, a national walking and cycling path which connects tourist attractions with coastal communities. Pas-de-Calais collaborated with walking and cycling enthusiasts to develop five 'car-free' holiday packages which were promoted by the regional tourist office. They have also started an e-bike rental service at popular tourist sites. 

Simplifying cross-border public transport 

In the Fehmarnbelt, a strait between Denmark and Germany, local authorities have joined forces to create a single public transportation ticket, which allows travel on both sides of the water. Before the implementation of the Fehmarnbelt-Ticket, passengers had to purchase three different tickets. This new offer is much more attractive and part of a larger plan to create a sense of community within the transnational Fehmarnbelt Region.

Promoting sailing as zero-emission tourism

Recognising the importance of specialised infrastructure for water tourism, a network of small boat marinas have been developed in the Eastern Gulf of Finland, at a maximum distance of 30 miles. Estonian and Finnish partners have worked closely with sailors to understand their needs and provide them with the right services and activities. This has helped establish new hubs of economic activity and reduced the stress on road and public transport networks in popular hotspots.

Investing in alternative fuel infrastructures

International shipping is a large and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Coastal cities see the impacts of this first hand, with many people living close to port infrastructure. 

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is an alternative fuel which emits less carbon and fewer pollutants than conventional fuel. To increase the use of this fuel, the port of Livorno, in the Corsica Channel, aims to develop a Mediterranean hub for LNG distribution. This could help to decarbonise offshore maritime transport, as well as in-port activities.

Policy lessons for maritime regions

As well as supporting the exchange of good practice and policy ideas, PASSAGE has also made some proposals for how the EU can support maritime regions to decarbonise, including strengthening cohesion policy to ensure cross-border co-operation, enabling co-operation with third countries so that all those with access to a common sea basin can co-operate, and enabling collaboration for the development of the blue economy.

Want to know more? Check of the PASSAGE policy recommendations for low-carbon transition in maritime border regions and their project website.

Image credit: Photo by Michel Rothstein from Pexels