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Responding to Rising Seas

OECD Country Approaches to Tackling Coastal Risks

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There is an urgent need to ensure that coastal areas are adapting to the impacts of climate change. Risks in these areas are projected to increase because of rising sea levels and development pressures. This report reviews how OECD countries can use their national adaptation planning processes to respond to this challenge. Specifically, the report examines how countries approach shared costs and responsibilities for coastal risk management and how this encourages or hinders risk-reduction behaviour by households, businesses and different levels of government. The report outlines policy tools that national governments can use to encourage an efficient, effective and equitable response to ongoing coastal change. It is informed by new analysis on the future costs of sea-level rise, and the main findings from four case studies (Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom).

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Executive summary

People have long been drawn to the coast by the availability of transport links, amenity value and access to marine resources. Being located on the coast has many benefits, but also exposes people and assets to a range of hazards, such as storm surges. Climate change induced sea-level rise will act as a risk multiplier, affecting the world’s coasts by increasing flood and erosion risks, and potentially fully inundating some areas. As risks increase, so will the associated economic and human costs from extreme events and slow-onset changes. New modelling projects that under a high-end sea-level rise scenario, residual damage costs could be between USD 1.7 trillion and USD 5.5 trillion over the 21st century.

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