Sea level rise can cause flooding, coastal erosion and the loss of low-lying coastal systems. It will also increase the risk of storm surges and the likelihood of landward intrusion of saltwater in freshwater systems and will endanger coastal ecosystems and wetlands. Expected rises in water temperatures will, furthermore, contribute to a restructuring of coastal ecosystems with implications for ocean circulation, biogeochemical cycling and fishery yields. Ocean acidification will also affect coastal ecosystems.
The European Commission's EU strategy on adaptation to climate change includes a Staff Working Document that addresses adaptation, coastal and marine issues. EU policies and instruments relevant for coastal areas include Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP). ICZM promotes a strategic and integrated approach to coastal zone management and aims to benefit from synergies and level out inconsistencies across different policies and sectors. MSP is a tool for planning and regulating human uses of the sea, also aiming to protect the marine ecosystems and to safeguard marine biodiversity. The main aim of MSP is to balance competing sectors, thus maximising synergies and minimising conflicts among marine uses.
Recognising the complementarity and the need to achieve coherence between the two policies, in March 2013 the European Commission adopted a draft proposal for a Directive establishing a common framework to further promote MSP and ICZM. The Directive also refers to the need for climate change adaptation in coastal and marine areas. The proposed legislative instrument will require Member States to establish integrated coastal zone management strategies and develop maritime spatial plans. In July 2014 a Directive on Maritime Spatial Planning was adopted. Although it does not directly deal with ICZM it stresses the importance of land sea interaction in various points. ICZM strategies will have to be built on the principles and elements set out in the 2002 Recommendation and the ICZM Protocol to the Barcelona Conventions that entered into force in March 2011, thus defining a common legal framework for ICZM in the Mediterranean Sea. Maritime spatial plans will have to be developed considering common principles set at the EU level by 2008and 2010 EC communications.
The proposed Directive supports the implementation of the EU's Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) that indeed identifies MSP and ICZM as strategic tools for the sustainable management of the marine and coastal systems, respectively.
The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) is the environmental pillar of IMP and establishes a framework within which Member States shall take the necessary measures to achieve or maintain good environmental status in the marine environment by the year 2020, at the latest. Under the MSFD, and in developing their respective national marine strategies, member states need to specify, where appropriate, any evidence of climate change impacts.
Finally, other EU policies and instruments relevant for the sustainable management of coastal areas in the light of climate change include the Flood Risk Directive, supporting the reduction of risk to climate change impacts. Under this Directive, Member States are called to identify river basins and coastal areas at risk of flooding and to establish flood risk management plans.