loader image


Too few marine spatial plans include climate change or consider adaptation and mitigation in planning objectives. We urgently need to include climate action in all plans and promote viable long-term actions that will contribute to mitigation goals and carbon neutrality. It is a major challenge for us internationally, but one we can face together.

Taking climate action is key to sustainable planning and management of the Mediterranean sea (a region that is a hot spot for climate change). The impacts of climate change on the Mediterranean coastal and marine ecosystems on top of pressures of human activities, like tourism, shipping, oil and gas exploitation, fisheries and aquaculture call for better planning from beginning to end.

Among its objectives, the Protocol on ICZM in the Mediterranean (and its Common Regional Framework for ICZM) stresses the importance of preventing and reducing the effects of natural hazards and climate change, and consequently taking mitigation and adaptation measures. At the EU level, the MSP Directive recommends Member States to prepare maritime spatial plans, which advocate for a balanced and sustainable use of marine space. This implies the resolution of conflicts among different economic sectors, the improvement of synergy and on top of all the “preservation, protection and improvement of the environment, including resilience to climate change impacts”.

A flexible marine spatial plan can adapt along the way as conditions change (i.e. new knowledge on the sea environment, new climate change projections and assessment of related impacts, evolution of the policy and socio-economic context, etc.). To achieve this, robust monitoring, evaluation and revision mechanism of MSP is needed at every stage. Dynamic ocean management is a way to rapidly adapt to changes in the ocean and its users, through the integration of near real-time biological, oceanographic, social and/or economic data. This approach can help address the challenges posed by the ongoing change of the climatic system and consequently of the oceanographic conditions.

MSP can address operational aspects of climate change adaptation and mitigation by:

1. Solving new conflicts that may arise between marine sectors and between the sectors and the marine environment, due to new challenges posed by climate change.

See Examples

Marine protected areas can have a key role in increasing climate resilience of vulnerable species and habitats, while well conserved carbon sequestering habitats (as Posidonia meadows) are key also for mitigation aspects. MSP can promote designation and networking of protected areas. This can generate conflicts with human uses of the sea (typically fisheries and tourism) that must be managed through an anticipatory MSP approach.

2. Minimising economic losses deriving from choices that do not take into account risks associated with extreme weather and slow onset events.

See Examples

Risk-based zoning and siting in marine aquaculture can help avoid areas that are particularly vulnerable to climate risks by selecting those most suitable for farming, considering both the current state and future challenges posed by climate change in the medium-long term. This is also important for nautical tourism, since extreme weather events may cause damage to vessels and to infrastructure, such as marinas and ports. These aspects should be taken into account when planning marinas, so as to secure safety ports in strategic places for future looking perspective. Moreover, MSP can encourage the use of rational ship routes that minimise fuel consumption, thus improving shipping efficiency, enhancing safety levels and decreasing fuel consumption with related reduction of CO2.

3. Thinking ahead about spatial and temporal measures to enhance major maritime sectors’ climate change adaptation capacity.

See Examples

In fisheries, model simulations can be used to project temporal and spatial dynamics of commercial species shift due to different scenarios of climate change, allowing the identification of new areas that might become important for fisheries in the future. Identification of suitable areas for aquaculture can also consider new opportunities coming from different species that are more resistant and adapted to changed sea conditions. Through spatial adaptation measures promoted by MSP, co-benefits for climate change mitigation can be also derived. This can be achieved by identifying adaptation solutions that are at the same time meant to minimise carbon emissions (for example taking into consideration fuel consumption when new fishing grounds or aquaculture areas are planned) or recognising the role of carbon sequestering habitats in interventions targeted to enhance coastal resilience.

4. Envisaging spatial measures directly targeted to promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in several maritime sectors, in line with the SDGs, the Regional Climate Change Adaptation Framework for the Mediterranean Marine and Coastal Areas, and the European Green Deal.

See Examples

In many European countries, MSP has provided enabling conditions for the offshore renewable energy sector developing in the Mediterranean Sea. Additional opportunities in the Mediterranean are being offered by the decommissioning of end of life oil and gas platforms. MSP can promote their conversion to clean energy from offshore renewable sources, as an opportunity to renew the sector, even in co-location and synergy with other emerging offshore activities (e.g. self-sustaining aquaculture installations). Moreover, marine spatial plans can identify, map and preserve “coastal blue ecosystems” such as seagrasses in particular, and their fascinating carbon storage capacity.

Placing Along the MSP Process

Climate change is a cross-cutting issue for MSP which should be considered throughout the entire planning process. Collecting and structuring the information needed to take climate action into account throughout the MSP policy cycle, built upon the Conceptual Framework for MSP in the Mediterranean, can be done according to the following questions:

Prepare: Starting the Process and Getting Organised

What are the MSP relevant sectors mainly affected by climate change? They refer to activities occurring at sea and to marine environmental aspects, but also to activities on the coast which might affect the sea environment and related uses.

Agree the Destination: Assessing the Context and Defining a Vision

What are the high-level MSP objectives affected by climate change? Are MSP vision and objectives coherent with long-term objectives of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies and policies?

Map the Present / Future: Analysing Existing and Future Conditions

What are the main impacts of climate change affecting each sector or sub-sector? How would you briefly describe each identified impact? Are there specific marine areas particularly affected by those impacts? Can these areas be mapped?

Design the Plan: Elaborating the MSP

What are the adaptation and mitigation objectives of the sector which can be implemented through the plan? What are the adaptation measures for each identified sector and impact that can be promoted through the plan? Which adaptation measures are of primary interest?

Get Results: Monitoring and Evaluating the Plan

Having in mind the achievement of the adaptation objectives, what are the mitigation benefits associated with the previously identified adaptation measures? Is there any trade-off relevant in terms of mitigation? Besides improved adaptation and contribution to mitigation, what are the co-benefits of the identified measures (e.g. synergies with other sectors, biodiversity conservation, social equity, preservation of UCH sites, etc.)?

Use our Climate Action Planning Tool to help you include the challenges of climate change and support climate action in your plan. The tool has examples of possible contents for different sectors to kickstart climate action in your area using local knowledge, studies, projects and key insights from your stakeholders.

Other tools and practices

1. OceanPlan project investigates how marine spatial planning can both be affected by, and adapt to global climate change.

2. National Maritime and Coastline Strategy (France): adaptation of coastal management is recognised among important goals. Under its Axis 2, the Strategy recognises that existing maritime and coastal uses need to be adapted to make the economy and coastal development resilient against global change.

3. Proposals for ICZM and MSP for the Emilia Romagna coast (Italy): the study includes a summary qualitative evaluation of possible effects of climate change on the efficacy of some of the proposed spatial measures.

4. Integrating Climate Adaptation Planning and Maritime Spatial Planning in the North Adriatic Basin. This study supports decision makers with the identification of the more efficient strategies to cope with climate change challenges and maritime space management.

5. The Adriadapt project supports building local and regional resilience by developing the knowledge base required to identify and plan appropriate climate change adaptation options. As part of the project, a resilience information platform for Adriatic cities and towns has been created.

6. Supreme projectCase study of Inner Ionian Sea- Corinthian Gulf. Different spatial scenarios were elaborated to inform maritime spatial planning proposals for the area. Adaptation to climate change effects is included among the strategic goals and planning objectives of the pilot area.

7. Supreme projectCase study of North Adriatic Sea. Suitable areas for renewable energy production were identified, analyzing the case of offshore wind potential in the Emilia Romagna region. Potential increase of sand extraction for coastal defense works as adaptation to climate change is also considered.

Go to the Climate Action and MSP Planning Tool