Lawrence J, Bell R, Blackett P, Stephens S, Allan S. 2018. National guidance for adapting to coastal hazards and sea-level rise: Anticipating change, when and how to change pathway. Environmental Science & Policy. 82:100-107. doi: 10.1016/j.envsci.2018.01.012.
Sea-level rise challenges public policy-making because existing planning frameworks and methods are designed to promote certainty using static and time-bound planning and legal instruments. Sea-level rise is a dynamic and uncertain process. It is especially uncertain towards the latter part of this century and beyond. Communities require decision making approaches that can enable adjustments to policies ahead of damage. These need to work without entrenching current exposure to hazards or incurring larger than necessary adjustment costs in the future. We discuss the nature of the sea-level problem and the policy context that creates decision-making challenges. We then look at how they have been typically addressed through policy and practice. We show how Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways planning, an approach designed to address uncertainty and change, is integrated into national guidance for coastal hazard and climate change decision-making in Aotearoa New Zealand. The guidance integrates hazard and sea-level rise assessments with the type of uncertainty and with the scale and scope of activity. It is underpinned by values-based community engagement. It uses signals and decision triggers for monitoring and adjusting pathways to meet objectives over time. We also discuss how to apply the approach in other policy problems involving uncertainty.