Length of Coast Line (km)

  1. Finland: 31,119
  2. Sweden: 26,383
  3. Greece: 15,147
  4. Italy: 9,226
  5. France: 7,330
  6. Spain: 7,268
  7. Ireland: 6,437
  8. Croatia: 5, 664
  9. Denmark: 5,316
  10. Germany: 3,623
  11. Estonia: 2,956
  12. Portugal: 2,830
  13. Netherlands: 1,937
  14. Poland: 1,032
  15. Romania: 695
  16. Latvia: 565
  17. Bulgaria: 457
  18. Lithuania: 257
  19. Malta: 219
  20. Belgium: 76
  21. Slovenia: 41

Most vulnerable EU countries: Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands

It is estimated that above 6,000 to 17,000 km2 of land will be lost during the 21st century due to enhanced coastal erosion associated with sea level rise in combination with other drivers. This could lead to the displacement of 1.6 to 5.3 million people and associated combined costs of 300 to 1,000 billion USD.

All European coastal states are to some extent affected by coastal erosion. About 20,000 km of coasts corresponding to 20% face serious impacts. 15,100 km are actively retreating, in spite of coastal protection works 2,900km. In addition, another 4,700 km have become artificially stabilized.

The effects of climate change could be devastating to vulnerable coastal and marine areas as well as to the function and structure of their ecosystems. Increasing sea level (1,7 mm/year) changes the shape of coastlines, contributes to coastal erosion and leads to flooding and more underground salt-water intrusion. 

Climate change also causes changes in European seas surface temperature, which has been up to six times greater than in the global oceans in the past 25 years. One of the most visible impacts of the rising sea temperature is the reduced area of sea ice coverage in the Arctic polar. The ice cover in 2007 was only half the size of the minimum ice cover in the 1950s. The diminishing Arctic ice is already impacting indigenous people and the habitats in the region, but according to pessimistic estimates in a few centuries it may constitute threat to major coastal cities in Europe, including London and Amsterdam.

Increasing sea-level affects a significant number of Europeans. One third of the EU population lives within 50 km of the coast. The GDP generated by this population amounts over 30% of the total EU GPD. The coastal areas are important sources of GDP per se. The economic value of coastal areas within 500 metre from the European seas totals between €500-1,000 billion. The costs of doing nothing against the effects of climate change in coastal areas are estimated to be higher than the annual costs of taking actions, which is estimated at around €6 billion. On the other hand, the net-benefits of adaptation are put at up to €4.2 billion.

The challenge of climate change needs to be addressed inter alia through integrated and ecosystem-based approaches and instruments, such as integrated coastal management. These are crucial to build the foundations for sustainable coastal management and development, supporting socio-economic development, biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Integrated coastal management is an acknowledged tool to deal with current and long-term coastal challenges, including climate change and its impacts (for instance sea-level rise, changes in storm frequency, strength and patterns and increased coastal erosion and flooding). The challenges posed by climate change to coastal areas have been also addressed by national integrated coastal management strategies, which have implemented different principles and tools to respond to these challenges: long-term perspective and precautionary principle, adaptive management, accounting for diversity of local conditions, working with natural processes and coherence between planning and management.

Adaptation Strategies- Recommendations

  1. Increase coastal resilience by restoring the sediment balance and providing space for coastal processes. A more strategic and proactive approach to coastal erosion is needed for the sustainable development of vulnerable coastal zones and the conservation of coastal biodiversity. In light of climate change, it is recommended that coastal resilience is enhanced by: (a) restoring the sediment balance; (b) allocating space necessary to accommodate natural erosion and coastal sediment processes and (c) the designation of strategic sediment reservoirs (supplies of sediment of ‘appropriate characteristics’ that are available for replenishment of the coastal zone, either temporarily (to compensate for losses due to extreme storms or in the long term (at least 100 years).
  2. Internalise coastal erosion cost and risk planning and investment decisions. Public responsibility for coastal erosion risk should be limited and an appropriate part of the risk should be transferred to direct beneficiaries and investors.  Risks should be monitored and mapped, evaluated and incorporated into planning and investment policies. Current practices observed in Europe reveal that the tax payer- through expenditures executed by public authorities- supports the major part of the costs associated with coastal erosion risk. Almost no cases are found where the parties responsible for coastal erosion or the owners of assets at risk paid the bill. The contribution of private funding for coastal erosion management in European member states probably does not reach 10% of the public expenditure (except for Denmark where a contribution from private owners accounts for up to 50% of the overall cost of coastal defence). In many EU member states, there is no national coastal management strategy. Coastal management is delegated to local municipalities that carry out coastal defence works where this is deemed necessary to preserve common interests. Municipalities or communities bear the costs of local defence operations.  An overall view of management practice is generally lacking. As a result, the spread of beach erosion is commonly aggravated by the individual communal efforts lacking a common view of the effects on downdrift sectors of engineering structures implanted in updrift sectors.
  3. Make responses to coastal erosion accountable. Coastal erosion management should move away from piecemeal solutions to a planned approach based upon accountability principles, by optimizing investment costs against values at risk, increasing social acceptability of actions and keeping options for the future.
  4. Strengthen the knowledge base of coastal erosion management and planning. Over the past hundred years the limited knowledge of coastal sediment transport processes at the local authority level has often resuted in inappropriate measures of coastal erosion mitigation. In many cases, measures may have solved coastal erosion locally but have exacerbated coastal erosion problems at other locations- up to 10km away or have generated other environmental problems.



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