Coastlines are very often places where the impacts of global change are felt most keenly, and they are also often sites of high values and intense use for industry, human habitation, nature conservation and recreation. In many countries, coastlines are a key contested territory for planning for climate change, and also locations where development and conservation conflicts play out. As a “test bed” for climate change adaptation, coastal regions provide valuable, but highly diverse experiences and lessons. This paper sets out to explore the lessons of coastal planning and development for the implementation of proactive adaptation, and the possibility to move from adaptation visions to actual adaptation governance and planning. Using qualitative analysis of interviews and workshops, we first examine what the barriers are to proactive adaptation at the coast, and how current policy and practice frames are leading to avoidable lock-ins and other maladaptive decisions that are narrowing our adaptation options. Using examples from UK, we then identify adaptation windows that can be opened, reframed or transformed to set the course for proactive adaptation which links high level top-down legislative requirements with local bottom-up actions. We explore how these windows can be harnessed so that space for proactive adaptation increases and maladaptive decisions are reduced.
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