What Chance Adaptive Coastal Management For Climate Change? A Legal Dysfunction in Vertical Governance

Anthony Gallagher, Patricia Park, Michael Galley

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    Mitigation has been the dominant approach to dealing with climate change to date. Perceived limitations of this approach, however, led Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to agree in Bali, 2007 that the alternative approach of adaptation should play a significantly greater role in the future global response, and this is now embedded as one of the post 2012 pillars. There is evidence of adaptation already taking place but this is currently piecemeal in manner. A more strategic approach is therefore needed to ensure that timely and effective adaptation measures are taken, ensuring coherence across different sectors and levels of governance. To this end the European Union produced a White Paper in April 2009, aimed at reducing vulnerability. Similarly, on a national basis many countries are consulting on a range of adaptive instruments, with the UK being no exception and issuing a consultation document on the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in October 2009. A major problem, however, is the disconnect between the vertical structure of legal instruments from international conventions, through European Community law, state legislation, and what happens within the coastal communities through local government and agencies. Adaptive management shows up in coastal management plans, regional development plans, and agency guidance documents; yet it appears almost nowhere within codified statutory and regulatory text. The research presented in this article is geographically concerned with exploring the capacity of coastal areas to adapt to change and what legal impediments might hinder such responses. In order to further the research, a case study approach is used with a particular focus on Christchurch Bay, UK, the conclusions from which may be transferred horizontally to other vulnerable areas of the UK coast and beyond.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)59-92
    Number of pages34
    JournalSea Grant Law and Policy Journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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