Biodiversity and climate change adaptation - EU finances ecological restoration of Alzette river network
- The EIB has granted a €9 million loan to fund the ecological restoration of the Alzette river and its tributary, the Pétrusse, in the heart of Luxembourg.
- The project seeks to restore both rivers to their original natural courses and conditions, increasing biodiversity and offering natural solutions for reducing flood risk.
- The transaction will come under the Natural Capital Financing Facility, part of the European Union’s LIFE programme.
On Thursday, 30 March, Minister of Finance, Yuriko Backes, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, Joëlle Welfring, and Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), Kris Peeters, presented a financing agreement between Luxembourg and the EIB to fund the ecological restoration of the Alzette river and its tributary, the Pétrusse. The works will cover a section of the Alzette located in the town of Steinsel, and a section of the Pétrusse located in Luxembourg City. The project has received an EIB loan for €9 million, granted under the Natural Capital Financing Facility (NCFF), part of the European Union's LIFE programme.
On a visit to Steinsel, participants viewed a portion of the river that had already been restored in order to form an idea of the final outcome. Coordinated by Luxembourg's Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development and its Water Management Authority, the project is part of a larger long-term programme to restore the Alzette river network from Luxembourg City to Mersch.
The restoration works for the Pétrusse are also part of a large-scale ecological restoration of the Pétrusse valley, intended to revitalise its damaged and altered ecosystems. Thanks to this project, to be completed in several phases, heavily urbanised sections of river will resume a more natural course. Their banks will also be restored to create natural habitats for flora and fauna. Planting riverside vegetation and allowing plant life to thrive on the banks will serve to create an ecological corridor. The restoration will let the water flow more naturally and slowly, reducing the risk of flooding. The measure constitutes a nature-based adaptation to climate change risk that will improve flood protection in and downstream of Luxembourg's capital.
The project will also serve to reconnect the Pétrusse with the Alzette by creating a softer incline at the river junction and adding a crossway for fish. The ecological restoration programme is based on an in-depth study of the natural changes and man-made developments in the Alzette river valley, and is being carried out in close collaboration with the local authorities. The sections of river that have already been restored are now seeing the return of native habitats and species such as beavers.
The project is part of the NCFF under the European Union's LIFE programme. This facility supports projects devoted to biodiversity and/or nature-based adaptation to climate change. It has already permitted the successful financing of several programmes to restore rivers in different EU Member States, including this one in Luxembourg, the last project to have been selected before the NCFF was closed. (Financial and technical support will continue to be provided through the InvestEU Advisory Hub.)
Following speeches by the ministers and the EIB vice-president, as well as an overview of the feasibility study, the project was explained in detail by civil engineering consultant Micha Bunusevac (see attached PPT).
Minister of Finance, Yuriko Backes, remarked, "Today, I am proud to be able to add this agreement to our portfolio of fruitful cooperation with the EIB. Having the financial support of government and local authorities, and of the multilateral community, is essential in order to promote the investments we need to protect the environment. Not only will the works to be financed restore the natural balance of the Alzette — with benefits for biodiversity, recreation, flood control and the local landscape — but they will ultimately provide opportunities for climate change mitigation and sustainable economic development in the region.”
Joëlle Welfring, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development, continued, "I am delighted at this exemplary and extremely important collaboration to restore our Alzette. This project is a perfect example of what it takes to face the impact of climate change. This ecological restoration will provide better protection against flooding, while the restored wetland areas will also continue to feed into our water tables and riverways, reducing the impact of drought. At the same time, renaturation fosters biodiversity by recreating ecological webs and improving water quality using natural means.”
EIB Vice-president, Kris Peeters, highlighted, "The efforts made by the Luxembourg authorities and the quality of the projects undertaken for the Alzette and the Pétrusse are remarkable. We are pleased to be a part of these investments with strong environmental and climate facets. Their impact will soon be measurable in these ecosystems by the return of biodiversity, and is essential for people living nearby, who will enjoy greater flood risk protection — a 'win-win' situation for the environment and inhabitants. And we are all the more pleased to note that this project, now under the LIFE programme label, aligns perfectly with the European Green Deal, which plans for the ecological restoration of 25 000 km of river by 2030.”
Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, remarked, "We welcome the commitment of the Luxembourg authorities to the renaturalization of the Alzette and the Petrusse. Fighting the degradation of our ecosystems and reversing their artificialization is essential for the well-being of fauna, flora and citizens. We are therefore pleased that the 'Natural Capital Finance Facility' of the LIFE programme supports such renaturalization projects across Europe.”
About the European Investment Bank
The EIB is the long-term lending institution of the European Union, owned by its 27 Member States. It provides long-term finance in support of quality projects to contribute to help achieve key EU objectives in Europe and the rest of the world. Operating in around 160 countries, the EIB is the world's largest multilateral lender to climate action projects. For more information, visit www.eib.org.
About the Natural Capital Financing Facility
The Natural Capital Financing Facility - NCFF is a joint instrument of the EIB and the European Commission financed under the LIFE programme, the European Union's funding instrument for the environment and climate action. It has supported projects dedicated to biodiversity and/or nature-based adaptation to climate change. It has been financed from the EIB's own resources and benefited from a €50 million guarantee and €10 million of technical assistance under the LIFE programme. The NCFF is no longer open for new projects, however future projects supporting biodiversity objectives may be financed under InvestEU, contributing to achieve the European Green Deal. EIB continues to offer specific advisory support for such projects, through InvestEU Advisory.
For more on Financing Conservation and Nature-based solutions, see also: Investing in Nature — A Practical Guide for Europe.
Press release by the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development and the European Investment Bank (EIB)