Northern Europe is facing sea level rise risk, with sea levels projected to reach 1 meter by the end of the century under high emissions scenario. SLR will pose serious environmental, socio-cultural, and economic risks to the continent as half of the population lives within 50 km of the coastline. Economic assets within 500 meters of the sea are estimated between EUR 500-1000 billion.
Without climate adaptation, 3 million people will be affected across the continent, and the annual losses from exposure to SLR and related risk could reach EUR 31 billion.
Northern Europe has a history of addressing coastal floods, notably through intensive polderisation. The Netherlands exemplified the systematic use of dykes and levees to protect their coastlines.
A report from the Sea’ties initiative, “Adapting Coastal Cities and Territories to Sea Level Rise in Northern Europe. Challenges and Best Practices,” provides an overview of current practices and obstacles to defining and implementing adaptation strategies drawn during the Sea’ties virtual workshop on 29 November 2021.
The workshop, “Adapting coastal cities and territories to sea level rise in Northern Europe” was the first of a series of five (Mediterranean basin, North America, West Africa, Asia-Pacific) that aims to provide a forum for experts and key stakeholders to share, connect and discuss current practices and knowledge on cities coastal adaptation.
The report focuses on three key areas:
- Closing knowledge gaps to support coastal adaptation through conducting local vulnerability and risks assessments, measuring the feasibility of adaptation, and defining frameworks for monitoring and evaluation of these adaptation measures;
- Strengthening governance frameworks to facilitate dynamic and hybrid adaptation strategies. A case study in the report provides an example of an adaptation strategy that combines flood protection measures in residential areas with land restoration and rewilding; and;
- Shaping resilient coastal cities through stakeholder engagement. Consultation and engagement between residents, local authorities, business people, and scientists can promote a better understanding of the risks from SLR, which can also help communities to prepare and cope with the hazards and assist researchers in identifying several intersections between socio-economic conditions and exposure.
The challenge has led five local authorities of southern UK to gather and found Coastal Partners that aims to support communities, businesses, wildlife, and infrastructure to improve their climate resilience through diverse work, including managing flood and erosion risk, planning and designing new coastal defence schemes, inspecting and maintaining existing defences and working towards a flood resilient future.
Ocean & Climate Platform. (2022). Adapting Coastal Cities and Territories to Sea Level Rise in Northern Europe: Challenges and Best Practices. Ocean & Climate Platforme. Retrieved from https://ocean-climate.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Seaties_Northern-Europe_Report-1.pdf
Sea’ties Regional Report – Adapting Coastal Cities and Territories to Sea Level Rise in Northern Europe, Challenges and Best Practices. (2022 5 May). Ocean & Climate Platform. Retrieved from https://ocean-climate.org/en/seaties-regional-report-adapting-coastal-cities-and-territories-to-sea-level-rise-in-northern-europe-challenges-and-best-practices/