Using Land Use Laws to Combat Rising Sea Levels

A blog post by Christian Tateossian, Junior Associate.

Countries across the globe are looking for new and creative ways to combat the issues stemming from climate change. One of the most pressing issues these countries are facing is the effect that rising sea levels have on coastlines. Rising sea levels are already creating great difficulties. It is projected that some coastal towns in island nations will be underwater by the year 2100.[1] One way countries are attempting to combat the effects of rising sea levels is through land use laws. Nations like Australia and the United Kingdom have already employed these tactics in an attempt to protect their citizens.

The United Kingdom has recently released a 2020 Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy.[2]  This plan includes strategic flood and coastal planning as well as climate adaptation. Their plan consists of creating more climate resilient environments, making proper investment and planning decisions in order to secure sustainable growth and environmental impacts, and creating infrastructure that is more resilient to flooding and coastal change.[3] The government of the United Kingdom has committed $5.2 billion dollars to this project over the next decade.[4] They also plan to work closely with local governments to accomplish this goal so that funding is better suited to the individual needs of each community.[5] Similarly, the Australian government is working with their local governments to put protections in place.[6] Due to the dense population of Australia’s coastline, the government needs to works swiftly and effectively to protect their citizens.[7]

It is clear that rising sea levels pose a grave threat to countries around the globe, particularly island nations. However, taking a close look at how different nations are handling this crisis is extremely important. By taking ideas from places like the United Kingdom and their Risk Management Strategy, and by looking at Australia and their ability to work with local governments to acquire land[8], we can figure out the most effective way to fight back against rising sea-levels. Examining strategies that are already employed and studying how to enhance these strategies is a necessary step for every nation, and one that must be taken very seriously.

[1] Jamie Doward, Climate change ‘will wreak havoc on Britain’s coastline by 2050’, The Guardian (Mar. 5, 2011), https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/mar/06/climate-change-coastline-joseph-rowntree.

[2] See National Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy for England, Environment Agency, https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/920944/023_15482_Environment_agency_digitalAW_Strategy.pdf.

[3] Id. at 8.

[4] Id. at 11.

[5] See Id. at 16.

[6] See The Australian System of Government, Parliament of Australia, https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/House_of_Representatives/Powers_practice_and_procedure/00_-_Infosheets/Infosheet_20_-_The_Australian_system_of_government.

[7] Executive Summary – Coasts, Australia State of the Environment, https://soe.environment.gov.au/theme/coasts.

[8] The Local Government Act 1999 (SA) § 191(1).

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