Climate change

Main issues

Climate change aspects have to be taken into account in various ways in MSP processes:

  • Direct impact of climate change on the seas and resulting new opportunities and restrictions for human kind to use it as resource: planning has to be based on the best up-to-date knowledge on the current and projected climate and oceanographic conditions in the MSP areas and needs to incorporate new knowledge in the update cycles (according to an adaptive approach).
  • Indirect connections to MSP: climate change effect can directly and indirectly impact marine ecosystems and related biological resources. Resilient marine ecosystems and related services are essential in providing benefits to human well-being in terms of food production (fishery and aquaculture), recreation, tourism, mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and disaster risk reduction for coastal areas.
  • Demands on the use of marine areas for the production of various forms of fossil-free energy (offshore wind and wave power) is expected to increase also to cope with mitigation targets. Mitigation of climate change may also involve changing transport patterns, e.g. a transfer from road to sea, provided that shipping can make use of fossil-free fuels or low-emission propulsion. Mitigation can even refer to the “Blue Carbon” initiative, including zoning seabed areas for potential carbon storage, and can be further triggered by new opportunities and innovation offered by the Blue Growth policy. MSP must be therefore viewed in the light of existing national and international climate policy and its likely changes.
  • From a climate change adaptation perspective, there may be demands that need to be considered in MSP, e.g. coastal erosion adaptation measures (beach nourishment and dune reconstruction) may increase demand for research and excavation of sub-marine sand deposit; climate change adaptation of the fishery sector might require fishing restrictions including no-take areas, MPAs resilience can be improved through networking. Climate-proofing of off-shore installations is also essential to properly deal with a long-term perspective.
  • Regional and national policies for ocean planning, as well as individual processes (both in terms of legislation and of actual ocean plans) need to be able to effectively incorporate change to thrive in a dynamic and uncertain future. Operational approaches to foster such flexibility, such as just-in-time planning, dynamic ocean management or dynamic ocean zoning must be explicitly identified, and implemented[1]. To date, marine oriented adaptation measures are still few in comparison with those developed in other sectors (see Climate-ADAPT web-platform for updated information on climate change adaptation in various sectors, including marine and fisheries). As pointed out by BaltSeaPlan Findings, policy related to climate change requires greater maritime orientation.

[1] Santos C. F., Agardy T., Andrade F., Barange M., Crowder L. B., Ehler C. N., Orbach M. K., Rosa R. 2016. Ocean planning in a changing climate. Nature Geoscience 9.

Please note that this section of the EU MSP Platform website is not currently being updated with new information. However, the resources throughout our website remain relevant to our mission of sharing knowledge and experiences on MSP in the EU.

Frequently asked questions

A pilot marine plan was developed for the Firth of Clyde in Scotland, as part of a number of pilots to inform the development of marine planning in Scotland. It considers climate change both in terms of how actions under the Plan might help mitigate the degree of anthropogenic induced climate change and also how the Plan need to be adapted to take into account the effects of climate change. Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation Measures in the general principles and also specifically referring to measures specifically oriented to different maritime sectors.

The Pilot Draft Plan for the West Part of the Gulf of Gdańsk (PL) points out the need for adequate technical solutions for infrastructures, coping with climate change (sea level rise) is stressed. Specific technical solutions are envisaged in order to respect the restriction that the height of above-water structures, built for scientific, environmental and nature conservation needs, should not exceed 5.5 m above sea level. At the same time, the pilot plan points out the lack of knowledge on how climate change will affect the protection of marine areas in long term, and how, in turn, the protection will influence the development of coastal communities is pointed out.

The Pilot Coastal Plan for Šibenik-Knin County (Croatia) recommends several adaptation measures for the county coastal area; some being also relevant for marine and maritime aspects, e.g.:

  • Infrastructure: protection against coastal flooding, adaptation of the existing coastal infrastructure to the expected higher sea levels, climate proofing of future infrastructure
  • Spatial planning: implementation of Article 8 of the ICZM Protocol for the Mediterranean establishing set-back zones along the coast, managed realignment to reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts, marine spatial planning for more sustainable and resilient sea use.
  • Governance and management: ICZM coordination body at regional level, creating favourable conditions for participation, awareness raising and capacity building.

Experiences of implementation of plans for coastal protection and management and adaptation to climate change effects, such as erosion and submersion risks, are available from the results of the COASTANCE project (namely from the practice Territorial Action Plans for Coastal Protection and Management). The focus is on low sandy or pebbly coastal zones and their inlands, the most expo­sed to sea level rise, erosion and submersion risks. Soft options like beach nourishment, while also being temporary and needing regular replenishment, appear more acceptable than hard defence structures (e.g. breakwaters, seawalls, groynes), and go some way to restore the natural dynamism of the shoreline. This has clear MSP implication in terms of identification and exploitation of submerged sand deposits. Practical applications are already available: Region of Eastern Macedonia & Thrace (GR), Département de l'Hérault (FR), Emilia-Romagna Region (IT) and various areas in Cyprus.

Addressing the requirements of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, the Clyde Marine Region Assessment 2017 represents the first step in formal regional marine planning in the Clyde. It presents a comprehensive review of environmental, social and economic trends and issues at the Clyde Marine Region level. Climate change is considered among high priority issues: potentially vulnerable areas were identified using the IPCC emissions scenarios to predict sea level rise and flooding (this was done through the 2017 sea level rise and storm surges in the Firth of Clyde).

The Macro-Project of the Bologna Charter and its Joint Action Plan (JAP) represent a coordinated effort of the Mediterranean coastal Administrations (sub-national level) to face concretely the challenges of the coastal natural risk, by adaptation policies contributing to develop conditions for the Blue Growth in the Mediterranean. The JAP identifies concrete actions for implementation of adaptation policies to the risks driven by climate change. Structural works and management solutions are identified. Works include coastal defences and closely related infrastructures and actions, like waterfronts, port arrangements, touristic assets, natural protected areas, etc.

Within the MedPartnership, UNEP/MAP, its Regional Activity Centres PAP and Blue Plan, and GWP-Med run the project “Integration of Climatic Variability and Change into national strategies to implement the ICZM Protocol in the Mediterranean (ClimVar & ICZM)". "Guidelines for adapting to Climate Variability and Change along the Mediterranean Coast" were prepared. These Guidelines offer specific information on how to integrate climate variability and climate change into national ICZM strategies, plans or programmes, making reference to the Protocol on ICZM in the Mediterranean which applies also to territorial sea (art. 8). The entire process is guided through a set of steps (Establishment, Analysis and Future, Setting the Vision, etc.).

COP19 of the Barcelona Convention endorsed on February 2016 the "Regional Climate Change Adaptation Framework for the Mediterranean Marine and Coastal Areas". The main objective of the Framework is to set a regional strategic approach to increase the resilience of the Mediterranean marine and coastal natural and socioeconomic systems to the impacts of climate change, assisting policy makers and stakeholders at all levels across the Mediterranean in the development and implementation of coherent and effective policies and measures by identifying strategic objectives, strategic directions and priorities.

The PartiSEApate project promoted a dialogue on MSP at pan-Baltic level between sectors and planners. The Transnational MSP Stakeholder dialogue pointed out some relevant needs for MSP process related to climate change:

  • Appropriate communication and information strategies are needed to allow spatial planners to access and interpret climate change data. Planners at the local level require support in downscaling global and regional trends and projection to their local situation.
  • Due to the uncertainty of prognoses concerning environmental, as well as socio-economic changes, MSP national legislation needs to become more flexible regarding climate change adaptation issues, e.g. through “adaptive licensing”.
  • (For the Baltic Region) A pan-Baltic multi-level strategy for integrating climate change adaptation into MSP and ICZM should be developed.
  • Collaboration between MSP and climate change adaption experts is required both at the practical as well as the policy level.
  • Climate change may have significant impacts on many sectors. So far, however, only consequences resulting from sea level rise are generally taken into account. The value of maintaining and strengthening ecosystem services (securing sectors like fishery, tourism, energy production, etc.) should receive greater attention.

Still in the Baltic, MARISPLAN investigated how climate change how climate change will influence the ecosystem in the Baltic Sea and its uses. How the society can adapt its policies and uses of the marine ecosystem in a changing climate was assessed, and GIS-based MSP tools were developed.

Climate change indicators to be used in coastal planning are available from the Coastal Indicator System (COINS), developed within the BLAST project. COINS is based on the 27 sustainability indicators identified by the European Expert Group on integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) and concentrates on the indicators particularly related to the impact of climate change. Examples of (directed or undirected) climate-related indicators included in COINS are:

A - Indicators aiming at controlling further development on undeveloped coasts:

Demand for property on the coast
The area of built-up land
Rate of development of undeveloped land
Demand for road travel on the coast.

B Indicators recognising the threat to coastal areas from climate change:

       5. Coastal zone erosion
       6. Natural, human and economic assets at risk.

C Indicator recognizing the sustainable development value of the coastal area:

       7. Potential of the coastal zone as a resource for renewable energy.

Coastal planners can visualise the effects of climate change on coastal areas using the COINS system. They are able to develop scenarios of socio-economic development balanced with environmental protection that are realistically constrained by the potential effects of climate change.

The SUSTAIN project has developed an indicator-based methodology and scoring system, DeCyDe for Sustainability Policy tool, which enables a self- assessment approach for local and regional authorities, to evaluate their sustainability performance for the purpose of improving the management of coastal zones.

The CoMPi project has developed an innovative service to support development of the maritime sectors of the Blue Growth Strategy, under climate change conditions. The service provides an indication of the historic profile of the coast, predictions for the future positions of the shoreline, monitoring services of the dynamic coastal evolution, recent high-resolution images, bathymetric charts and contour maps. The use of this service will facilitate potential end-users to protect their properties from climate change effects with greater efficiency, preventing from unnecessary and inefficient public works and supporting the decision-making-process for future planning and sustainable development of coastal areas.

The recently started OCEANPLAN project will develop an index to assess MSP vulnerability to climate change applying it to selected case studies around the planet. Alongside, it will investigate operational approaches for adapting to change and uncertainty, further analysing how specific MSP processes and policies have been integrating, and dealing with climate change. Guidelines for MSP under a changing climate will also be developed.

The Wadden Sea Region Climate Atlas has been developed to support the Wadden Sea Forum activities in the field of climate change and climate adaptation, as it concerns the society and the different sectors. The climate office of the HZG (Helmholtz Zentrum Geesthacht) has adapted their existing climate atlas to the requirements of the Waddens Sea Forum sectors. For the Wadden Sea Region, several climate scenarios are placed in this atlas and different parameters can be selected. Further information on water levels, wave heights and water currents will be carried out and integrated in the atlas within the coming months. It is also foreseen, to provide the atlas in the Danish, German and Dutch language.


Bologna Charter 2012

The Bologna Charter 2012 is aiming to strengthen the role of the coastal administrations in the context of European policies and initiatives at the Mediterranean scale referring to: coastal protection, integrated management of the coastal and marine systems (including MSP and Blue Growth) and adaptation to climate change.

Implementing a coastal observatory network in the Mediterranean Sea

Sharing methodologies and coastal services (remote sensing surveys, protocols, models, dataset, etc.) directly among the public bodies involved in coastal and marine management, is the best way to improve their knowledge and thus develop their governance skills.

COINS - Coastal Indicator System

Using the 27 climate change indicators developed by the European Expert Group on ICZM, COINS helps coastal planners take account of potential future impacts of climate change in their work. It is a web-based tool built on open source components and can be used free of charge.

Deep Sea Briefs

The HERMIONE project (Hotspot Ecosystem Research and Man’s Impact on European Seas) ran from April 2009 to September 2012 and focused on investigating deep sea ecosystems including submarine canyons, seamounts, cold seeps, open slopes and deep basins. The practice is a series of briefing documents on various topics relating to research and issues affecting the deep sea environment.

Scotland's National Marine Plan

Marine plans for both the inshore and offshore regions, which will be published as a single document. A sustainability appraisal is being undertaken to assist in the development of the marine plan.

Territorial Action Plans for Coastal Protection and Management

Formulation of plans for coa­stal protection and management and adaptation to climate change effects such as erosion and submersion risks. The focus is on low sandy or pebbly coastal zones and their inlands, the most expo­sed to sea level rise, erosion and submersion risks.

Pilot MSP plan in Lesvos and Rhodes (Greece)

These plans cover co-existing uses within the territorial waters of the two islands like fishing, aquaculture, tourism, nature conservation, shipping and oil extraction.

Coastal Plan for Šibenik-Knin County

The plan's main focus is on resilience and adaptation to climate change, coastal water management and sustainable spatial development. The plan also addresses a number of issues which are relevant for MSP, including in particular: coastal and maritime tourism, aquaculture, biodiversity preservation and measures for coastal protection.

Assessment of how climate change will influence the ecosystem in the Baltic Sea and its uses

MARISPLAN will investigate, how climate change will influence the ecosystem of the Baltic Sea and its uses. GIS-based MSP tools will be developed.

Definition of Sediment Management Plans elements

Three set of recommendations for beach sediments maintenance & management a) Cleaning maintenance and management; b) Beach sediment maintenance implementation; c) Regional regulation on the implementation of beach sediment management good practices.

Joint Action Plan on Med coasts

The “Joint Action Plan on Med coasts Adaptation to Climate Change” (JAP) is the operative tool of the Bologna Charter 2012, proposing concrete actions - structural works and management solutions - to improve climate change adaptation and resilience in Mediterranean coastal areas.