Adaptation to Climate Change in Coastal Areas of the ECA Region: A contribution to the Umbrella Report on adaptation to climate change in ECA


Executive Summary

Climate-related hazards are increasing in Europe and Central Asia (ECA), and geographical variations notwithstanding, most societies are faced with the need to adapt by trying to minimize negative impacts while seizing on the few positive effects.

Adaptation strategies aim at reducing vulnerability as a way to manage climatic uncertainty. Vulnerability is defined as a function of exposure to weather events, sensitivity and adaptive capacity; it varies significantly according to the magnitude of changes (which originate from the interaction between global and local climate patterns), and the characteristics of the system and sector affected. To reduce vulnerability, it is necessary to study the projected exposure and current levels of sensitivity and adaptive capacity of a specific region. This allows for understanding where interventions are necessary, which interventions can be implemented, and which are most likely to succeed.

The ECA region is at a stage where knowledge needs to be gathered on future changes, likely impacts and possible adaptation measures; the Umbrella Report has the specific goal to initiate this process and inform future analyses of climate change in ECA. The present section contributes by analyzing vulnerability and adaptive options of the coastal areas of ECA, with particular a focus on rising sea levels.

Coastal areas are particularly vulnerable because exposure to hazards comes both from the sea and from the land, and because of their high socioeconomic and naturalistic value.

These hazards are not limited to climate change. The coasts of ECA may be particularly vulnerable as part of an economic system that is still struggling to complete the transition after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The basins under study, with the exception of the Arctic, are enclosed and as a result are going to be strongly influenced by changes in sea temperature and run-off. The synergy between these two factors and the already high nutrient loads especially characteristic of the Black, Baltic and Caspian Seas, threaten to increase the likelihood of eutrophication, algal blooms, and extension of hypoxic/anoxic zones, with consequent impacts on fisheries production, human health, and tourism. Run-off may increase in the Baltic and in the north of the Caspian (from the Volga) therefore flushing more nutrients and fostering extended eutrophication episodes. In the Mediterranean, Black, and Adriatic Seas, a decrease in total run-off is more likely, but this may still heighten the risk of eutrophication. In fact, during periods of drought or low-flow, pollutants are less likely to be flushed away, so when rainfall occurs it causes bursts of highly concentrated nutrients and pollutants that reach the sea.

Additional threats to human health and tourism may come as a result of the impacts of sea-level changes and increased storminess. Poor waste management practices in ECA have resulted in coastal pollution, worsened by the unregulated building of waste dumps and landfills. Shore erosion may increase the amount of pollutants and solid wastes flushed into the sea.

enforcement of zoning schemes, interventions to control erosion and the development of alternative employment are part of the ICZM arsenal; they can support adjustments in spatial planning (protect, accommodate, retreat) that are the center of coastal adaptation.
ICZM can also promote strong ties between various sectors of the coastal communities and strengthen community organization. This, in combination with the promotion of awareness of climate change, is critical to the success of warning systems, another important piece of successful adaptation strategies.

Additionally, goals to empower local authorities and resolve conflict between coastal stakeholders address two of the main issues that most commonly undermine adaptive capacity.

In parallel to ICZM, Integrated River Basin Management (IRBM) has the characteristics to implement adaptation measures to control climate change events affecting coastal areas, by targeting issues along watersheds. An IRBM project can tackle river-planning water resources management and flood control measures to control the quantity, seasonal pulses, and quality of water reaching the coasts while taking into consideration the different uses and stakeholders’ needs (agriculture, industry, urban needs).

In ECA, an IRBM to control emission from the Danube has met with good results.
However, the rate of ICZM success to date is not very encouraging (SDN week 2008;
World Bank 2003). Given these considerations, and the uncertainty of the projections, the interventions should be two pronged: (1) A process should be initiated to strengthen ICZM plans or kick start such projects where they are missing; (2) Local-scale projects should be implemented to address adaptation needs at a smaller scale; this is based on the idea that small positive outcomes may build consensus among Institutions and the public for the need of a wider approach managed through a general ICZM.