Policies aimed at adaptation to sea-level rise advocate new approaches, no longer based only on protection but also seeking to reduce the vulnerability of densely-urbanized coastal zones, especially through managed retreat or anticipatory relocation. However, such relocation faces substantial challenges and constraints at all governance and policy scales. This article elucidates some of the social and institutional conditions for putting relocation on the agenda and implementing it in the case of France. It addresses the current situation through an analysis of the multi-level governance processes (national guidelines and frameworks, local experiments and regional strategies) which contribute to the production of “actionable knowledge” for relocation in terms of legitimacy, credibility, applicability and acceptability. The detailed analysis of the stages and types of actors and processes involved reveals the hindrances, in terms of inertia and status quo, found at each level of decision-making and action, as well as the positive role of actors or policy entrepreneurs catalyzing interactions between these different levels. This multi-level governance enables a hybridization of initial standards, information sharing and collective learning which, together with operational proposals derived from studies and experiments, create conducive conditions for coastal relocation and spatial reconfiguration projects.
Moving towards multi-level governance of coastal managed retreat: Insights and prospects from France
20 September 2021