Reframing urban coastal adaptation – which is the most appropriate policy wagon?

11:15 Wednesday 29 May


Room S11


Larissa Naylor (United Kingdom) 1; Douglas Mitchell (United Kingdom) 1; Mairi Macarthur (United Kingdom) 2

1 - University of Glasgow, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, and NERC Coastal Climate Change Adapation Knowledge Exchange Fellow; 2 - University of Glasgow, School of Geographical and Earth Sciences

Coastal and estuarine ecosystems provide essential services (e.g. buffering of floods and storms, nursery sites for commercially important fish, recreation and amenity) which are increasingly threatened by the loss of habitat associated with the combined pressures of human activities and factors such as sea level rise and increasing coastal erosion. These stresses on coastal and estuarine ecosystems are already causing coastal squeeze (as habitat cannot relocate landward due to urban/agricultural land use) and are predicted to increase in the future.

Adaptation is required and in many cases will require a radical shift in how we manage and live with the coast, including roll-back/retreat in rapidly eroding and/or low-lying areas. How can we maintain, or reduce the loss of essential ecosystem services coastal habitats provide to society as we adapt to coastal climate change? Innovative solutions to adapting urban land currently adjacent to the coast are being proposed such as the ‘dryline concept’ in New York City. Where the policy decision is for hard coastal flood alleviation infrastructure to be used, a suite of nature-based and green-grey measures are being designed and tested worldwide to reduce the use of and improve the ecosystem provision of hard coastal infrastructure (e.g. seawalls) where built. Do climate change, biodiversity, land use and green infrastructure policies currently provide ‘policy windows’ for land-based adaptation to coastal climate change? And does flood policy provide adequate space for flood, erosion and storm alleviation infrastructure to be more multi-functional, to allow (albeit limited) adaptation capacity for ecosystems to coastal squeeze?

This paper presents findings of a rapid evidence review of ecosystem-based approaches to urban coastal adaptation to climate change (the science side) and explores which policy levers or ‘wagons’ are most likely to enable society to deliver effective ecosystem-based approaches to adaptation (the policy dimension). This paper presents a new method and results from systematic analysis of land use, marine and coastal policies from EU to local scale in three regions of the UK. Green infrastructure (GI) policy is predominately terrestrial in scope. We thus examine GI policies from coastal regions of Canada, Australia, USA, England and New Zealand to identify their coastal and climate change adaptation content Ð to identify windows for coastal adaptation to be delivered as part of GI policy. This analysis is used to explore whether green infrastructure may be a more effective policy lens by which ecosystem-based urban coastal adaptation planning can develop.