1.57 - Adaptive Planning for coastal climate adaptation in port-cities: integrating Adaptation Pathways into planning instruments

Project description

Port-cities are emerging on the frontline of new or exacerbated coastal risks associated with the effects of climate change and ongoing human pressures.

Although knowledge and experience in coastal climate adaptation have expanded since the 1990's, in many port-cities there are still 'adaptation deficits', and barriers to adaptation planning and implementation. Coastal climate adaptation presents novel complex challenges to the spatial planning and management of urban coastal zones. It is often deemed a "wicked problem", due to: deep uncertainty about the future effects of climate change and sea-level rise, and about the future climatic, physical and socioeconomic conditions; difficulty in the projection of changing coastal risks and in coastal physical modeling; and multi-scalar complexity related to the presence of multiple stakeholders, uses and interests on coasts, and difficulty in reaching consensus about when and which adaptation measures should be appliedwho will pay them and who will benefit.

A new paradigm for planning under deep uncertainty and inter-temporal complexity, has recently emerged: Adaptive Planning. This paradigm encompasses several methodological approaches for designing "dynamic adaptive plans" – i.e. plans that can be adapted over time, as more is learnt or as conditions change, and that meet their objectives under multiple possible future scenarios. These approaches, namely the Adaptation Pathways' approach (APs) – have been deemed promising and useful for supporting and enabling climate adaptation planning and decision-making in the face uncertain (unforeseen) future conditions and changing risks, and have been applied in a few practical cases. Nevertheless, further research is required to explore their practical feasibility in real contexts and in diverse policy frameworks, especially in coastal and estuarine cities. There is still a reduced number of cases of  application of APs into instruments of coastal urban and port planning for climate adaptation / risk management purposes.

The Portuguese context provides critical cases in terms of vulnerability of port-cities to emerging coastal risks, and difficulty in planning for long-term coastal adaptation. Considering the changing risks and uncertain future conditions, coastal adaptation demands a more "Adaptive Planning and Management" of port-cities' coastlines. 

In synthesis, given the existing adaptation deficits in many coastal port-cities, and under uncertain and changing conditions, further research is needed to develop, test and apply methods that support and enable coastal climate adaptation processes – their planning and implementation – in more proactive, feasible, ongoing and sustainable ways.

In this sense, this Project aims to analyze: to what extent can the APs method be integrated and applied into spatial planning instruments used in the coastal zones of port-cities. To answer this question, this work will: (1) examine how the Adaptive Planning approaches, in particular the APs, have been used for supporting and enabling coastal climate adaptation in two European cases (the Thames Estuary Project 2100 and the Dutch Delta Programme); and (2) test the applicability of the APs into the planning instruments used in the coastlines of two Portuguese port-cities.

Research team
  • Sofia Valente
  • Paulo Pinho (supervisor)
  • Fernando Veloso Gomes (co-supervisor)  
Financial support
  • FCT financial support

Stage of progress

  • Concluded in 2021