How can we avoid coastal emergencies through better governance?

11:15 Tuesday 28 May


Room S6


Camille Manning-Broome (United States of America) 1; James Butler (Australia) 3; Lisa Danielson (France) 2; Sandy Bisaro (Germany) 4

1 - Center for Planning Excellence; 2 - OECD; 3 - Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; 4 - Global Climate Forum

Coastal regions are amongst the most vulnerable geographies in the world to the impacts of climate change, due to their inherent exposure to the combined effects of sea level rise, flooding and intense storm events. These impacts are already being experienced, with unprecedented costs to livelihoods and economies, and are likely to escalate in scale and unpredictability. How governance systems identify, prepare for and respond to these risks is critical. Around the world, different approaches are emerging to manage current crises, anticipate forthcoming emergencies, and cover the escalating financial costs from limited public purses. In some regions governments and the private sector have been reacting to recurring emergencies, while in others the slower onset of coastal impacts has allowed time for adequate preparation.

This session explores governance approaches from both ends of the spectrum, and thus aims to answer the question: ‘how can governments and other stakeholders avoid falling into reactive coastal emergencies?’ In the Mississippi Delta of Louisiana, USA, subsidence and erosion rates are exacerbated by sea level rise and more intense hurricanes. Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, innovative governance emerged to adapt to emergencies, but has become entirely reactive as a consequence of federal and state politics and funding mechanisms, exacerbated by ongoing inundation of coastal communities. In the European nations of Germany, France and the UK, the onset of coastal emergencies has been slower, allowing governance mechanisms to be designed and trialled in a proactive, anticipatory mode, within different political contexts.

In this session we investigate governance models and experiences of their relative efficacy from the USA, Germany, France and the UK. We present two frameworks that are used to design governance processes, both reactive and anticipatory. From Louisiana, USA we present the Three Emergencies construct, which defines the different levels of emergency (i.e. real, conceptual and existential) and diagnoses governance approaches and responses. From Europe we introduce the OECD’s 2019 approach, which examines how countries approach sharing costs and responsibilities for coastal risk management, and how this encourages or hinders anticipatory risk-reduction behaviour by different actors. We present two case studies from Louisiana, and two from Europe, which illustrate the policy and political challenges faced by coastal regions, and the efficacy of the different approaches. In the discussion session we will invite participants, both policy and research, to reflect on the experiences and governance models, and consider their strengths and weaknesses.

Target audience

The session is targeted at policy, humanitarian and research practitioners tackling the challenges of sea level rise and adaptation in coastal regions of developed (i.e. OECD) and developing regions. The session is intended to discuss different framings of governance, augmented by practical examples and experiences of successful or ineffective outcomes. We hope that conference participants engaged in other coastal areas equivalent to the case studies will attend this session to share their experiences. The session is deliberately designed to provide short presentations followed by extended discussion.

Proposed format for the session

  • Introduction, aims of the session, OECD and Three Emergencies frameworks: 5 mins.
  • Presentation 1: 10 mins.
  • Presentation 2: 10 mins.
  • Presentation 3: 10 mins.
  • Presentation 4: 10 mins.
  • Discussion: 50 mins.
  • Final conclusions: 10 mins

Contributing Authors abstracts

1. Camille Manning-Broome, Center for Planning Excellence, USA

Many coastal communities in the Mississippi Delta are already experiencing flooding, the deleterious economic consequences of rising insurance costs, and impacts on their livelihoods and cultures. Sea level rise projections indicate that the future viability of many settlements is questionable, and communities will have to consider relocation inland. Through regular inundation, many communities are becoming temporary or secondary residences. Due to the lack of good governance processes, communities are largely disenfranchised from decision-making about their futures. Also, the diverse ethnic, demographic and livelihood characteristics of coastal communities result in conflicting priorities for their aspired futures. Consequently, there are no appropriate planning mechanisms that enable communities to take control of their futures, or to proactively address their own vulnerabilities and potential solutions. This presentation describes several initiatives aimed at reversing this trend and providing people with an opportunity to co-design pathways for the future, and to address the ‘conceptual emergency’. CPEX has been involved in co-developing seven adaptation plans with coastal Parishes, is leading the community engagement on the resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles, and has been working with smaller communities on options for relocation.

2. James Butler, CSIRO, Australia

There is a growing realization that Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan, first introduced in 2007 to tackle flood risk and to restore wetlands, is not addressing the full scope of the coastal challenge. The impacts of climate change are affecting the state’s economy, culture, health and environment, yet the focus of adaptation efforts is physical and infrastructural engineering, and is implemented by one agency. Recognizing the limitations of this approach, in August 2018 the Democrat premier, Governor Edwards, sanctioned an initiative to revisit the missions of all government agencies relating to climate change and coastal land loss. In October 2018 a State Agency Resilience Building Symposium was held in New Orleans to explore the future of the coast and the state, and to initiate a multi-level governance transformation. This talk presents the tools and processes used, based on systems understanding and social learning. While the work primarily focused on addressing the real and conceptual emergencies, it also highlights how there has been limited attention to the ‘existential emergency’ facing Louisiana, including challenging the narrative about ‘man versus water’, and the state’s dependence on the oil industry.

3. Sandy Bisaro, Global Climate Forum, Berlin, Germany

This presentation will be focused on the German Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein. The very different physical hazard and socio-economic contexts in the faced within one state provide a rich illustration of the different models of coastal risk management central governments can take with regard to adaptation, and the co-management of coastal risks with local governments and communities. By examining adaptation and coastal protection decisions in several communities on the German Baltic Sea coast, it is possible to illustrate the enabling factors and barriers to central government support for local level action to address long-term coastal risks driven by sea-level rise. In particular, the German case illustrates: i) strengths of centralized approaches to coastal risk and adaptation decision-making regarding efficiency and flexibility in the face of SLR uncertainties; ii) how local governments face multiple conflicting responsibilities and priorities that can present challenges to funding adaptation to coastal adaptation; iii) perceived fairness across municipalities can be a major barrier or driver of local level action; iv) that clearly defined funding and decision-making criteria regarding coastal risks is key to enabling local level adaptation.

4. Lisa Danielson, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris, France

This presentation will draw on a recent publication, which examines how countries are adapting to sea level rise. Informed by an analysis of the future costs of sea-level rise, a review of current national adaptation planning practices in OECD countries as well four case studies (Germany, New Zealand, Canada and the UK), it outlines the policy tools that national governments can use to encourage an efficient, effective and equitable response to ongoing coastal change. This presentation will frame subsequent discussions, as well as present key findings from the Canadian case study.