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

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

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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.

 

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.

 

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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