WUR to counter climate change in European Green Deal

December 8, 2021

A climate-neutral European Union by 2050 and an inclusive, sustainable economy. This is what the European Green Deal, the European Commission's ambitious programme to counter climate change, aims to achieve. The latest Horizon 2020 call focused entirely on the European Green Deal, with a total budget of one billion euros. Wageningen University & Research participates in nine of the approved projects.

Through nine projects, Wageningen University & Research contributes to Europe's response to climate change and the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity. The projects consist of international consortia with many partners (research, industry, governance, NGOs, farmers, civilians etc.) Most of them started this autumn; some will start at the beginning of 2022.

The newly launched European funding programme for research and innovation, Horizon Europe, also focuses heavily on research and innovation projects benefiting the European Green Deal.

Environmental projects

In the domain of environmental sciences, Wageningen University & Research participates in a number of projects:

SUPERB: forest restoration

European forests suffer from climate change, while these forests increasingly need to provide us with renewable resources and conserve biodiversity at the same time. The SUPERB H2020 Green Deal project (Systemic solutions for upscaling of urgent ecosystem restoration for forest-related biodiversity and ecosystem services) aims to restore forest landscapes by creating an enabling environment for the implementation of forest restoration and adaptation at different scales. At the core of the project, concrete restoration actions will be carried out in 12 large-scale demonstration areas located in 13 different European countries. Upscaling of these activities will take place through over 90 associate partners, totalling a budget of 115 million euros.

WaterLANDS: wetland restoration

More than 90% of European wetlands have been drained for other forms of land use. As a result, many plant and animal species have disappeared. In addition, important ecosystem services have deteriorated, such as retention of water and carbon. More visible consequences of these changes are increased flooding, soil subsidence and loss of water quality. The WaterLANDS project sees wetland restoration as an urgent socio-ecological problem. It aims to bring together best practices from fragmented restoration projects across Europe to identify solutions that benefit both the environment and people. The best practices will be tested byrestoring 10,500 hectares of wetlands.

MERLIN: freshwater for transformative change

Europe's environment is in a vulnerable state, with climate change expected to even worsen the situation. This poses threats to economic prosperity, human wellbeing and social peace. Our society needs systemic, transformative change. Ecosystem restoration is key to this change. Freshwaters are the ideal demonstrators of the necessary change because the restoration of streams, rivers, peatlands and wetlands has a long tradition and offers an extensive knowledge base. The MERLIN project (Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: INnovation, upscaling and transformation) commits to transformative ecosystem restoration. It aims to mainstream nature-based solutions for the systemic change of our society.

REST-COAST: restoration of coastal ecosystems

Coastal ecosystems offer valuable ecosystem services, but many of them are vulnerable. The REST-COAST project focuses on coastal restoration in 9 pilot areas. These represent vulnerability hotspots in Europe's main regional seas. By overcoming present barriers to upscale restoration, REST-COAST will develop river-coast connectivity and expand nearshore areas for resilient delivery of coastal ecosystem services. These ecosystem services (risk reduction, environmental quality and fish provisioning) address urgent coastal threats, such as combined erosion and flooding during recent storms or the accelerating degradation of coastal habitats.

FIRE-RES: living with wildfire

Extreme wildfire events are becoming a major environmental, economic and social threat in Southern Europe and increasingly gaining importance in northwest Europe. As the limits of fire suppression-centred strategies become evident, practitioners, researchers and policymakers increasingly recognise the need to develop novel approaches that shift emphasis to the root causes and impacts of extreme fires, moving towards living with fire. Such an approach includes community awareness, communication and learning across national and disciplinary boundaries. Within this project, Wageningen University & Research leads the Germany-Netherlands Living Lab, a collaboration with various public stakeholders in both countries.

ClieNFarms: climate-neutral agriculture

The Farm to Fork Strategy of the European Commission must lead to a transition to a more sustainable food system, and contribute to achieving climate neutrality in 2050. The Climate Neutral Farms project (ClieNFarms) contributes to this goal by developing and stimulating climate-neutral agriculture in Europe. With 20 living labs (including one in the Netherlands), demo farms, a network of pioneers and upscaling to 100+ farms, the project works on a series of integral measures (reduction of greenhouse gases and carbon sequestration) towards climate-neutral agriculture. Wageningen University & Research is involved in this project together with 32 partners, and is responsible for the Dutch living lab and the work package on upscaling.

All nine projects

The nine approved projects in which Wageningen University & Research participates are ClieNFarms, FIRE-RES, I-CHANGE, MERLIN, REAL_DEAL, REST-COAST, SUPERB, WaterLANDS and ZeroW.