The Mediterranean coastlines are known for high rates of urbanization which makes their settlements and infrastructure exposed to sea floods and sea-level rise. Knowing that the Mediterranean hosts one third of global tourism, with coastal tourism being the prevalent type, it is obvious that rising sea levels pose a serious threat for this region. Moreover, many economic sectors (e.g. agriculture, fisheries, maritime transport) of high importance for Mediterranean countries are endangered by a changing climate.
Expressing the impacts of climate variability and change (CVC) in monetary terms has a profound effect in delivering the message and raising awareness. In this project, replicable methodological approaches were applied to address these emerging issues. One is the Dynamic Integrated Vulnerability Assessment (DIVA) method that estimates a potential damage by rising sea levels together with related adaptation costs. The other is the sector-based Local Assessment of Vulnerability (LAV) that considers impacts of CV&C. Both methods were applied on coastal areas of Croatia and Tunisia. The DIVA method has been applied globally, on many regions and countries. Therefore, these results are comparable now, and can give us the picture of the magnitude of impacts on different countries. This is particularly interesting when comparing developed and developing countries. In addition, an assessment of banking and insurance practices related to CVC in the Mediterranean has been developed.
In Croatia, as in many other Mediterranean countries, coastal urbanization has reached high levels, mainly driven by tourism development. This leads to higher potential damage costs of coastal assets due to their higher exposure to extreme sea water levels. The estimation of such costs is critical for creation of needed political will that can change unsustainable coastal development patterns. Article 8 of the ICZM Protocol invites countries to establish a zone where construction is restricted, the so called setback zone. Giving room to the sea, and stopping the “ribbon development”, are among the major objectives towards sustainable coastal development. The “ribbon development” considers linear extension of urban development and the creation of new transport infrastructure along the coast.
The Dynamic Integrated Vulnerability Assessment (DIVA) method was selected for such estimations. It is probably the most appraised global integrated model that assesses biophysical and socio-economic impacts of the sea-level rise and extreme events. DIVA focuses on increased coastal flood risk in terms of the expected annual damage from extreme sea level events and dry land loss due to sea-level rise. The assessments were based on three sea-level rise scenarios and three socio-economic development scenarios. Impacts were considered without adaptation and with adaptation to flooding (in the form of upgrading dikes), and to erosion (by nourishing beaches).
Concerns on potential costs of increasing exposure of high-density development to sea-level rise and extreme water levels have emerged from the DIVA studies. In Croatia, for example, the discrepancy between population projections and the intense coastal urbanization came into focus - while projections indicate a population decrease, spatial plans allow for a 10-fold increase in the urbanized coast compared to before the 1960s. This coastal urbanization boom is typical for Mediterranean countries relying on coastal tourism, which then raises the key question – who will bear these costs? Moreover, the areas that came out as having the most population endangered by sea-level extremes do not coincide with ones with highest potential damages. How to set protection priorities?
In Tunisia, the results pointed out that sea-level rise impacts can be reduced significantly if appropriate adaptation measures are applied, albeit the high upfront investments and annual maintenance costs. One third of the Tunisian coastline consists of erodible beaches, where population and economic activities are concentrated. But will protection by dykes be attractive for tourism? This DIVA implementation highlighted the importance to enhance the local expertise. Continuous and productive data/information exchange between the DIVA team and its Tunisian counterparts, under the Tunisian Agency for Coastal Protection and Planning (APAL), proved to be essential for carrying out this activity.
The sector-based local assessment of vulnerability (LAV) deals with impacts of climate variability and change (CVC) on economic sectors, such as tourism, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, water management, maritime transport, and energy sector. Impacts on forest fires, cultural heritage and human health were also considered. In this project LAV was applied on both national (Tunisia) and sub-national (Šibenik-Knin County, Croatia) level. LAV showed that the key economic sectors that contribute significantly to local economy on coasts of the Šibenik-Knin County and Tunisia – tourism, agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture, and water resources management – are likely to be affected by CVC. The greatest potential impacts will be on coastal assets, which will equally affect primary residents, and owners of secondary houses and tourism facilities.
The extent and timing of these impacts are uncertain. However, strong evidence that the climate is changing and the sea level is rising, urge us to find a way to make our coasts more resilient. Priority should be given to no regret measures, like establishing a setback zone, which is the safest and the least expensive solution.
With predictions of more frequent and severe extreme weather events, there is an urgent need to build partnerships with the insurance and banking sectors in efforts to improve adaptation to climate variability and change (CVC). These sectors now realize that they are on the “front line” of climate change risks, which for them are more a threat than an opportunity. By way of example, the banking sector is potentially affected by physical impacts on mortgage assets and investments.
This innovative assessment summarizes best available practices in major banking and insurance companies to address CVC in the Mediterranean coastal zone. It mainly focuses on property and land insurance, because erosion, rising sea levels and drought damages are expected to intensify in the future in the Mediterranean. Based mainly on questionnaires, it provides concrete examples of leading insurance and banking companies’ climate risk management practices, and highlights industry trends. The assessment puts forward some recommendations based on existing practices, to improve the banking and insurance sectors’ overall management of climate change risks.