Meghan Alexander (United Kingdom) 1; Rhoda Ballinger (United Kingdom) 1; Emma Mckinley (United Kingdom) 1
1 - Cardiff University
Coasts play an important role in human well-being, from benefiting physical and mental health, to shaping cultural and social identities to name a few. However, coastal landscapes also face a range of mounting risks (e.g. coastal flooding, storm surge, erosion) that will be exacerbated with the on-going effects of sea level rise and climate change. The challenge for Flood & Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) is how best to sustainably manage these risks while simultaneously maximizing well-being benefits. In Wales (UK), this is reinforced by the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which places a statutory duty on all public bodies to actively contribute to the achievement of seven national well-being goals.
Addressing an important gap, this research examines the extent to which FCERM governance facilitates or constrains the pursuit of well-being, while also considering the challenges and opportunities for aligning these two agendas through multi-level governance mechanisms.
Conducted under the auspices of the CoastWEB project, we present the results of a mixed methods study involving in-depth policy/legal analysis and interviews with Welsh policymakers and practitioners operating at national and local scales. Accompanied by a national survey and corresponding Stakeholder Network Analysis, this work also examines the structural relationships between different groups of actors, alongside the perceived effectiveness and importance of collaboration within current governance arrangements. To facilitate comprehensive and systematic data analysis we developed a governance evaluation framework, situating FCERM within the broader national goals of ecosystem-based management. Derived from a systematic literature review, the framework identifies 20 core criteria and corresponding benchmarks for success, orientated through process (e.g. integration, coordination and stakeholder participation) and outcome aspects of governance (e.g. societal resilience and well-being).
Results & conclusions
We document how current governance arrangements act to constrain but also have the potential to enhance environmental, social, cultural and economic facets of well-being across spatio-temporal scales. In particular, the research highlights the importance of effective ‘bridging mechanisms’ to resolve governance fragmentation, alongside the need for reflexive and legitimate practices, particularly with regards to weighting and negotiating conflicts in well-being goals and between ecosystem services. Just as ‘managed realignment’ of existing flood defences is suggested as a necessary approach for sustainable FCERM, we conclude that a process of governance realignment is required to secure the well-being of future generations to come.