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The IMCORE project ran from 2008 to 2011 and was funded under the EU Interreg IVB programme.

VIDEO: David Green, David Fryer and Peter Inglis share their views on the issues that affect Aberdeen and planning for adaptation to climate change


 "The city is susceptible to flash flooding and important infrastructure is at risk".  Conclusion from workshop   
"As scientists we need to help get accurate and meaningful messages across to the public. David Green
To make sure we reach out to the public we used advertising on local buses                     Guillaume de la Fons

Access or download overviews, tools, techniques and examples of visualisation tools, educational tools, legal and policy tools, future scenario techniques, etc

Practical tips for following the IMCORE approach to planning to adapt to coastal climate change 


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Summary of the Cork Harbour case study

It could be argued that in Cork Harbour we suffer from an existing ‘adaptation deficit’. The impacts of the current climate regime often overwhelm the defences of the city and lower harbour, leading to flooding and considerable damage to property and critical infrastructure. The need to meaningfully engage with the subject of adaptation in advance of the more severe climate impacts predicted for Cork is therefore becoming increasingly urgent.


Having previously produced an ICZM strategy for Cork Harbour, we were fortunate in having a ready-made partnership structure to begin the engagement process for adaptation: the Cork Harbour Management Focus Group (CHMFG). This group comprises representatives of the key statutory bodies and commercial actors with a stake in the management of the Harbour, so provided an ideal forum to support our adaptation strategy process.


The CHMFG were involved in every stage of our strategy development, which was for the most part very successful. We utilised their expertise to establish precisely which climate issues required adaptive intervention thus enabling us to determine the drivers of change surrounding those issues. These drivers were subsequently used to generate scenarios of change and the input of the Group was hugely beneficial and grounded our work – given that representatives from the group would be involved in the subsequent implementation of any strategy. Similarly, their extensive knowledge of the workings of local government gave extra validity to the back-casting exercise we undertook to populate our adaptation actions table.


However, we did encounter a few stumbling blocks in working with such a high level group of stakeholders. The most critical obstacle was gaining sufficient access to the group as a whole and containing the process within a short period. With busy schedules and plans forced to change at the last minute we often had to wait for extended periods between the scheduling of workshops and meetings. This cost us valuable momentum and influenced the ability of the Group to retain focus on the purpose and process of the exercise, but is likely to be a necessary trade-off when working with a relatively large group of high level collaborators. For all of us engaged in the process - stakeholders, researchers and facilitators alike - shifting our focus to think beyond the immediate tasks and obligations of the here and now and creatively envision the future was also a necessary hurdle to overcome.


Despite these challenges, our adaptation strategy was successfully drafted and will now be launched. However, we’re keenly aware that in order for the strategy to be implemented, it will be essential that that we’re able to keep the public and key stakeholders engaged with the issues it raised, which is becoming increasingly difficult during the current economic downturn. So in order to assist with communicating the costs of inaction and potential savings of adaptation, we created a visualisation tool that illustrates the effects of flooding in an engaging and challenging way, providing us with a means to generate debate and interest that might not otherwise be possible. The success of the tool was down to an expansion of our ECN to incorporate the National Maritime College of Ireland and the Cork Institute of Technology, which gave us the opportunity to tap into resources and expertise we’ve not previously employed. In addition to the local knowledge, pragmatism and planning expertise of our Cork County Council partner, this configuration of our ECN was extremely useful.


Overall, we see this initial effort at an adaptation strategy as merely a first iteration, to be revisited, amended and improved as knowledge evolves and actors change roles, and as the policy/legislative landscape alters. Therefore the most important thing we’ve taken from the IMCORE project is not the strategy itself, but learning how to utilise the adaptation process in a locally specific and relevant way.

Full summary of the North East England case study

In the North East of England there is a high level of awareness of the need to adapt to climate change. IMCORE (through the regional group ForeSea) brought a coastal  element to this process. Developing adaptation strategies created divergence at the initial issues workshop but some important topics were raised and used as a prompt for developing adaptation strategies with the ForeSea steering group.

Climate North East, along with others, has developed strategies to work with and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Having a member of the partnership of Climate NE on the steering group opened up the capacity to feed in to their adaptation strategy. This will be done through developing the North East Coastal Network. The strategies of Climate NE and those developed from the   adaptation workshops will be used as guidelines for creating the background for the network.

The current status of the North East economically will be a key selling point to sign members up for the network as it represents  “togetherness” in a region that is being restructured and broken down due to funding reductions associated with government cut backs.

Summary of the Aberdeen Beach case study

Flooding and sea level rise are part of a number of potential threats posed by climate change which can affect Aberdeen and its economic development. The severity of the threat depends on the magnitude of the likely effects, which cannot be accurately forecast. However, in the short term this appears to be relatively small. Nevertheless, the cost of mitigating all the impacts is likely to rise steadily and will represent an increasing economic burden for the city. This will be exacerbated by a lack of knowledge, funds, experience, strong public and executive will to robustly address climate change issues. This is currently impeding significant progress but projects such as IMCORE aim to help improve the situation and have the potential to have a lasting impact on society at the local scale.

Full summary of the Belgian Coast case study


The future is always uncertain although adaptation to climate change becomes more and more important on the policy agendas of the several institutions, encouraged by the national adaptation strategy. The latter reaffirms the need for a coordinated and integrated approach in which the context specific elements of each Region are respected and stakeholders are engaged.

Local Conditions:

Due to the federal and regional structure in Belgium, policy and legal actions related to climate change adaptation at the coastal zone are divided between the federal government and the Regions (three Regions: the Flemish, the Walloon and the Brussels Capital Region) each with their own competences.

Due to climate changes (e.g. rising of the sea level, extreme storms, increased wave energy) and continuing developments, protection against coastal flooding will become increasingly difficult. This necessitates close cooperation between federal state and region in determining coastal policy and management.

Who was involved and how:

The Expert Couplet existed of the Maritime Institute and the Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services. We organised workshops together on the issues, drivers and scenarios. Furthermore, the Maritime Institute did research on the legal and policy aspects of adaptive strategies, while the Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services made a Belgian Coastal Codex available through a web based application and freely accessible for everyone. The content of this Codex was developed by the Maritime Institute.

The Maritime Institute worked together with the Management Unit of the North Sea Mathematical models, Ecolas, Flanders Hydraulics Research, Arcadis, ILVO (Fisheries), the Flemish Environment Agency, Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) on the CLIMAR-project, that organised workshops on the three coastal sectors and made a framework for adaptation scenario's/measures as a response to climate induced impacts.

Stakeholders from different coastal sectors participated in the workshops.

What happened/actions and decisions:

We organised a workshop on issues identification to understand more about the impacts of climate change and form an idea on which issues the adaptation strategy should deal with. We had a second workshop on scenario development, to assess the ecological, social and economic impacts on three important Belgian coastal sectors, namely fisheries, tourism and coastal defence and develop four possible socio-economic scenarios from which an adaptation strategy for our coast could be established.

Once the preferred scenario (one for all, and all for one) was chosen, we could develop adaptation measures for each of our key coastal sectors. Those measures were discussed in the workshops and assessed on different criteria to select the most efficient adaptation measures.

Those adaptation measures were all subjected to a legal and policy evaluation.


The IMCORE process made sure that in all coastal sectors awareness of potential effects of climate change is raised.

The Agency for Maritime and Coastal Services has developed an Integrated Coastal Defence Plan taking to adapt to scenario-based effect assessments of climate change. The Plan is approved by the Flemish Government but the process to embed this plan into a legally binding decree is still ongoing.

What we learned:

We learned that communication before and during a workshop is crucial because participants are more captivated if they know the purpose of the workshop. A good schedule is vital as a workshop is very time consuming and discussions can get out of hand.

Awareness raising for the workshop is important since a substantive amount of stakeholders can provide a representative input. A questionnaire can be sent to stakeholders that were not able to attend the workshop in order to reach more people and get that crucial input.

Related to the development of an adaptation plan a "bottom up" approach was put forward as one of the principles. We realised that adaptation initiatives should be established at a local level, starting from sectoral adaptation plans combined in regional adaptation plans. More communication between sectors and engagement of sectors is needed to come to a strategy and implement it.

Adaptation for practitioners

Most of us as practitioners understand what climate change is and given the amount of media coverage it receives most of us are also familiar with the idea of mitigation as a response to climate change. Adaptation as a response to climate change has not received the same level of media coverage and as such is not as familiar. Read through our FAQ from practitioners to find out more about adaptation.


Sefton - lessons learned

Read the key lessons learned from the experience of the Sefton Expert Couplet:

Lessons learned about People

Lessons learned about Understanding the Coast

Lessons learned about Adapting


The Sefton Coast is changing and will continue to change, the rate of change will increase as a result of climate change. As a Council we need to anticipate this change and plan for it. The main opportunity from coastal change is the potential to increase tourism as an economic activity. The main threats are loss of habitats and infrastructure as a result of coastal erosion and changing weather patterns. There is strong community interest in the coast with people participating through a range of mechanisms from guided walks and volunteering through to pressure groups.

Lessons Learnt:


There are two principal groups that we chose to engage with, the public in order to raise awareness and professional partners both to raise awareness and change behaviour by encouraging them to embed adaptation to coastal change within their policies and actions.

When raising awareness it is important to be clear on what your messages, how you are going to communicate them are and to understand your audience. Communication should be well structured, recognise the audience's attention span and be understandable; having a good story to tell makes it easier to tell and to understand. When simplifying complex information there is a balance to be struck between absolute accuracy and keeping it short and interesting; a method of overcoming this is to present it in a clearly simplified form so that it is apparent that the simplification has taken place.

The nature of the audience will alter the way the message is delivered and the content, older audiences may be more resistant to messages about climate change but respond well to setting coastal change in an historical context. School children may be able to be presented with a longer message because they are studying the coast but the material needs to be made relevant to their learning objectives. The combination of messages delivered on-site and off-site can work well allowing the reinforcement of key messages.

Who communicates the messages is important as those with a significant level of understanding such as academics are not necessarily the best to communicate; they appear to have problems separating out what is relevant to the layperson both in terms of level of detail and content. There can also be problems when trying to consult on very technical documents that have not been tailored to the audiences needs.

An informed stakeholder is much easier to talk to and progress options with than one who does not understand how the coast is changing.

When considering people whose behaviour we want to change it is important to understand the organisational context that they work within and be clear why we are talking to them. If it is their responsibility to take something forward we only need to raise this awareness with them. There are times when it is useful to have a neutral external facilitator to allow for honest expression of opinions from partners and thus the development of more robust solutions.

Understanding the Coast

Understanding the coast is a long term activity that benefits from collaborative working with academics. The value of this understanding relies on clear communication and it being expressed in terms that link through to policy.

There is a risk that the knowledge from practitioners is lost because they don't find it accessible or useful to write in an academic style so information is either not documented or risks being lost within grey literature.


When using new methods in workshops it is useful to practice them beforehand. It is also good to be clear on what you are doing and why. If you have some elements of responsibility on the coast you may take a different approach to your areas as you want to identify the risk, options to address the risk and select the preferred option. If you are looking at areas that are not your responsibility you only want to develop the risk assessment to the stage where it allows the person with the responsibility to understand that they need to take action at which point they are best placed to take it forward with support and facilitation from you if necessary.

The future for adapting to coastal change in Sefton is good although limited by lack of financial resources. We have identified officers within the Council to take a lead on this action, we have a strong commitment from key Partners on the coast to adapt and we have identified the key issues. We are also clear on the need to embed the adaptation approach in to existing policy.


Severn full intro

The Severn Estuary IMCORE process set out to increase awareness of climate change impacts and adaptation options in order to inform the development of guidelines to assist with the identification of adaptation options.

Why adaptation guidelines were needed? There was a clear need to provide some Severn specific guidance to planning authorities as there was little specific guidance available at the start of the project, there was a focus on mitigation rather than adaptation in existing and evolving plans, and there was concern that all the different planning authorities around the Severn were taking varying approaches and using different climate change predictions

Why guidelines and not a strategy? - because there were already a large number of existing and evolving plans and strategies which dealt with elements of climate change. Estuary-wide plans dealing with flood and coastal risk were also under development during the IMCORE project (Section 6)

Why a planning and local authority focus? – There was particular concern from SEP stakeholders within the previous INTERREG IIIB COREPOINT project about development and flood risk on the urban, low-lying and potentially vulnerable shores of the estuary

Why a focus on education too? - There was a need to raise awareness of climate change in local school children, tomorrow's decision makers. There was also a desire to build on the success of the COREPOINT education pack.

Who was involved? - The Expert Couplet involved Cardiff University and the Severn Estuary Partnership. A wide range of other stakeholders were engaged during the project, particularly local planners, other local authority officers as well as representatives from key sectors related to climate change and planning. In addition, educators and school children were involved from the Welsh side of the estuary

What we did – a lot! In summary, we

  •  conducted a range of surveys on climate change issues and planning system issues
  •  organised a range of workshops on issues, scenarios and the guidelines
  •  constructed exploratory socio-economic scenarios
  •  developed climate change adaptation guidelines for the estuary.
  •  produced some simple summaries of climate change science and impacts on the estuary
  •  undertook a baseline study of the Severn estuary environment (the State of the Severn) against which future climate change  impacts can be assessed.
  •  organised large scale events (forums and conferences) to inform and engage with our key stakeholders

Deviations from the general IMCORE process - Whilst following the general IMCORE model, the complexities of the Severn Estuary in terms of its geography and institutional characteristics meant that some deviations from the IMCORE process have been essential. This has included the need for multiple workshops on some aspects, such as scenarios, in order to engage with as wide a range of stakeholders and to relate to the varying coastal features around the estuary.

Our key achievements –better informed stakeholders who are more engaged with the debate on future coastal, including climate change. The main outputs (scenarios, guidelines, state of estuary report and education materials) are also key achievements and should be of value for some time, informing the development of other plans and strategies around the estuary.

What we have learnt – The Severn Estuary is large and complex and it takes considerable time and effort to develop outputs which are meaningful to the estuary community. We've also learnt the value of tapping into local knowledge and expertise. It was clear that our engagement with representative local authorities in addition to estuary-wide forums and networks enabled better 'ground truthing' of the final adaptation guidelines.

Summary of the East of England Case Study


About half of the main settlements in the East of England region are on the coast. They underperform against a range of measures and in particular have poor economies, high rates of unemployment and poor measures against a range of social indicators. Government and its agencies recognized that investing to stimulate growth as a response to these factors was not necessarily the best response, because it was clear that many of the areas identified in spatial plans for such investment were at high risk from climate change impacts: namely sea flooding or coastal erosion.

The Coastal Initiative was established with key partners at regional and local level, across a range of government agencies, and CoastNet as an NGO bringing a community perspective and expertise in engagement.

The coastal initiative, having identified the issue - reconciling likely conflicts between the need for growth with risk of climate change impacts from the sea – set about understanding the context better. Two key reports were commissioned, regarding socio-economic status and dynamics, and regarding governance. The second in particular was pivotal. It introduced the futures approach and used this to test how well the existing governance system could respond to likely future pressures. Not well in some cases. The close relationship between the initiative and two key government departments helped to influence development of two new government policies relating to the management of coastal change and its consequences.

CoastNet worked to develop new institutions to engage affected communities, and new processes to engage with individuals in the development of adaptation strategies. In particular CoastNet recognized the serious extent of the knowledge gap that had developed between government and its agencies on the one hand and communities and their constituent residents and businesses on the other in relation to the understanding of climate change and the needs for adaptation. CoastNet was able to facilitate a much improved dialogue and also developed a framework for 'coastal literacy' to enable a more balanced and inclusive debate regarding adaptation and coastal management.

At its close the Coastal Initiative has:

Contributed to a better understanding of the context for adaptation to climate change in the region

Been instrumental in shaping two new government policies

Identified an important knowledge gap that is a barrier to policy implementation, and proposed the development of 'Coastal Literacy' in response

Engaged a wide range of stakeholders in the region, raised awareness amongst them and identified actions to take the learning from the initiative forward into a new phase of work.


Summary of the Gulf of Morbihan case study

What we did

The IMCORE project in the Gulf of Morbihan consisted of the following phases:

• Identifying local climate change issues. This mainly took the form of two workshops for local actors and a survey carried out in the Gulf of Morbihan on the local inhabitants' perceptions about climate change (1,062 people questioned).

• Detailing the state of scientific knowledge in the Gulf of Morbihan in order to identify climate change issues. This was done in collaboration with scientists working on these problems and thus enabled them to assess climate change outcomes in the Gulf of Morbihan area.

• Interviewing the key people who were unable to attend the workshops (10 people questioned).

• Analysing how spatial planning tools are used for climate change integration (on a legislative basis: click here to see legal report made by Betty Queffelec)

• Developing scenarios based on the identified issues by using visualisation tools. The scenarios themselves were developed in collaboration with local councillors, technicians, professional representatives and associations over the course of two workshops. Once the scenarios had been finalized, they were immediately put before local actors through the medium of nine focus groups and individual interviews. Around 70 people participated in the process.

• Using visualisation tools to create 3D models. For the duration of the project, SHOM (the French state naval hydrographic and oceanographic service) made available its Litto3D model. This model enables the sea-level rise impacts on coastal zones to be displayed in 3D format.

• Strengthening adaptive capacities through a local adaptive strategy that encompasses all scenarios, their effects and the strategic choice outcomes for the local area.

• A public presentation of the findings took place on 5 February 2010. The project's final outcome will be presented in September 2011 at a conference in the Gulf of Morbihan.

Please click here for more details on the IMCORE process in France.

What we learned

• Climate change adaptation is not a central issue for the local area. The issue seems to be too far in the future when it comes to making today's local management decisions. As such, it is difficult to convince local stakeholders of the need to tackle the issue in-depth.

• Scientific knowledge on climate change is inextricably bound to the uncertainties that accompany it. These uncertainties are a barrier to securing the commitment of local stakeholders, in particular, the decision makers that like to make informed decisions. What is more, scientific knowledge and models are highly developed on a global level, but under-developed at the regional level and this reinforces peoples' perception that the issue is far beyond the scope of local and regional stakeholders. Uncertainty is particularly conducive to inaction, or at best, to "no-regrets" decision-making, i.e., choosing adaptation measures that, regardless of the future outcome, benefit the local area, the individual, and society as a whole.

• French local stakeholders were not used to the scenario development method. Nevertheless, the participants took part with gusto and were attracted to the method's participatory and innovative nature. People who took a step back and adopted a "wait and see" attitude at the beginning of the workshops gradually entered into the spirit of the proceedings and injected a new dynamism that yielded interesting scenarios and which gave the participants a sense of ownership. Innovative methods, such as those used in the IMCORE project, are transferable if local contexts and cultures are fully integrated, and if complexity levels can be adapted to the participants' needs – thus enabling their successful integration into local projects.

• UBO's involvement in the project helped local stakeholders to identify climate change issues at the local level. In fact, it was the university's status and the scientific cachet that it lent to the project that enabled local stakeholders to perceive the issue of climate change at the local level.

• SIAGM's involvement served to engage the local stakeholders. This was made possible through the relationship of trust that SIAGM had built with the latter through long-term dialogue/consultation and mutual action in the creation of the blueprints for the Regional Nature Park. It is highly unlikely that such a large nu

Top 10 tips

1. Be clear on who you need to work with (Partners) to develop an adaptation strategy that represents the wide range of coastal interests and that you share a common understanding of what the strategy will deliver.

2. Be clear on how you will engage with communities who have an interest in the coast.

3. Ensure that you communicate regularly with Partners and communities so that they know what is happening and what is expected of them.

4. You should not assume that you will achieve consensus.

5. Using scenarios can be very valuable but can also be complicated, ensure that you prepare and practice for this and use facilitators if you feel you need help.

6. Partner and community representatives may change during the process, plan for this and arrange handovers.

7. Be clear on how you intend to implement and review the strategy.

8. It will take time, money and commitment from key partners, recognise this and make sure this is in place.

9. Identify your gaps in data and understanding and plan for how you can fill these or how you will manage without them.

10. You will need to communicate complicated information to a wide range of people, do not underestimate this task.

This learning portal brings together the results and lessons learned from the IMCORE project. This project was funded under the Interreg IVB programme from 2008 to 2011.

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