Coastal environments are susceptible to a range of impacts arising from medium and long-term climate change. However, as Ireland’s population and industrial centres are concentrated in coastal locations, Ireland’s coastal communities will be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Therefore, making the best use of existing knowledge to inform the establishment of governance structures capable of facilitating the measures and actions which may soon be required is a national imperative. Coastal communities worldwide have turned to integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) as a process to deliver sustainable development. This paper explores how experience gained from ICZM implementation can be harnessed to inform the development and implementation of climate adaptation policies, with a particular focus on the coastal zone. Using the principles and conceptual basis of Earth System Governance – an emerging approach to analyse complexity of governance under global environmental change – the paper maps the architecture of ICZM and climate governance in Ireland. The research identifies the main barriers to, and opportunities for, integrated application of the two policy domains. Barriers include the fragmentation of governance structures and responsibilities of key stakeholders, a lack of coordinated support for ICZM implementation at the national level, and a relatively weak awareness of the specifics of adaptation at the local level. Opportunities include the availability of expertise gathered from phases of ICZM implementation in Ireland, which encompasses mechanisms for science-policy integration, and invaluable experience of stakeholder participation and interaction. Current political and scientific support at national and EU levels give an additional impetus to climate research and actions which may bring additional opportunities and resources to coastal governance in Ireland.
Keywords: Climate adaptation; Coastal zone management; Policy integration; Governance architecture; Earth system governance