Conference explores impact of climate change on our coast

Photo of Jurassic Coastline from Sidmouth

Posted on: 21 November 2019

Managing coastlines in a changing climate will be discussed at the inaugural South West Coastal Change Conference next week (Tuesday 26 November).

The conference, which will examine how we can better manage our coast and protect our coastal communities in the context of the climate emergency, is being organised and hosted by the Devon Maritime Forum, in partnership with the University of Plymouth and Royal HaskoningDHV.

Key speakers include Dr Andrew Russell, from the Committee on Climate Change, which provides independent advice to government on building a low-carbon economy and preparing for climate change.

Dr Russell was the author of the Committee’s “Managing the coast in a changing climate” report last year which stated that “rising sea levels are not avoidable” and that the issue is “not being confronted with the required urgency”. At the conference he will critically assess the effectiveness of existing coastal management policies.

The conference will hear from Dr Luciana Esteves, a world leading expert on the process of managed realignment, who will be talking about the challenges and opportunities of working with natural processes as sea defences won’t be able to protect every location that may need them.

Dr Matt Palmer, Sea-level and Ocean Climate Lead at the Met Office will provide insight on rising sea-levels, while Doug Eltham, from the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group, will provide the broader context of the current climate emergency and the steps Devon is taking to reduce carbon emissions.

Photo of Professor Ed Maltby Professor Ed Maltby, Devon Maritime Forum Chairman, said: “Public and political recognition of the scale of climate change and the need to reduce our carbon emissions is perhaps approaching a critical tipping point, but we’re still a long way from recognising or fully accepting, let alone adequately planning for, the impact of the carbon we have already released. Nowhere will feel this impact more than our coasts and coastal communities as a result of significant sea-level rise and increased storminess that is forecast for decades if not centuries to come.

“We need to start having difficult conversations now and the initial South West Coastal Change Conference allows us to explore, together, what it means to manage our coast in the context of this climate emergency, how managing the risks from coastal flooding and erosion could be integrated into local planning, and whether we’re facing up to the inevitability of future coastal change.

“We’re facing some stark warnings about the urgency of the situation and there is much work to be done. Communities who are on the frontline of coastal change must be involved and partnerships such as the Devon Maritime Forum can play a critical role in ensuring preparations are co-ordinated.”

The conference will be held at the University of Plymouth’s Marine Station, at Coxside, from 9:30am – 4:15pm on Tuesday 26 November.

For more information, the full meeting programme and registration details, go to the Devon Maritime Forum website or contact dmf@devon.gov.uk

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