Bottom up Adaptation Strategies for a Sustainable Europe

Building A Coastline Defense (Timmendorfer Strand, Germany)


The Climate Challenge

The municipality of Timmendorfer Strand is a German coastal resort town with around 9000 inhabitants and tourism is the main economic sector. About 18% of the municipal area is situated less than 3 m above mean sea level (MSL). The population and their property values are in threat of climate change effects like sea level rise and storm floods. Before the late 1990s, Timmendorfer Strand had no flood protection measures implemented and rising sea level and intensive storm events could lead to problem of flooding. In response, the municipality initiated a participatory process that involved the community in developing appropriate climate change adaptation measures in 1998 which ran until 2011. As part of the participatory approach, extensive analysis of the social and economic particularities of the town were reviewed and the design and implementation of a coastal defense measure was developed. The coastal defense measure was designed in a way that it is absorbed into the natural coastal landscape of Timmendorfer Strand and is therefore not an obstruction to either inhabitants or tourists that come to enjoy the seaside.


The Adaptation Response

The adaptation response was the construction of a sea wall that reached a maximum height of 0.8 m above the level of the pedestrian promenade. The natural landscape of undulating sand dunes and ridges as well as the promenade influenced the careful design of the wall. For example, glazed retention walls were installed as an aesthetic consideration, a measure developed as a prerequisite to ensure acceptance of local stakeholders. Overall, the total cost of the project was € 30 million. The sea defense wall cost € 18 million (of which the community had to take € 3.5 million), the cost of architectural and landscaping activities amounted an additional € 12 million. Of these, the community had to cover a share of 50%. Other funding came from EU cohesion funds and state funding.


The People and Institutions Involved

While the initial idea for the project came from the state authorities, the city was in charge of carrying out the planning and implementation. Technically, the city had no prior experience in this kind of adaptation planning, however, the state agency supported the process and initiated the participatory approach, which was a crucial and positive element in the success of the measure. Also, an economic evaluation was undertaken beforehand to weigh costs and benefits of the measure and to increase transparency of the project.


The Outcome of Action

In summary, three key elements can be identified which contributed to the success of this adaptation measure. First, the economic analysis of the potentially damages of the community have been set in relation to the costs of coastal protection. With the participatory approach chosen, stakeholders were involved successfully in the process and their wishes concerning the coastal defence measure were acknowledged by the community. This was possible because the community could assure funding for the more costly measures from the beginning of the project.


Full Report

The full report of this case study can be read here.


Photo © Ecologic Institute