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Development of technology tools for the assessment of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in the coastal zones of Uruguay

Uraguay coast
This technical assistance advances the following Sustainable Development Goals: 

Decent work and economic growth

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth
Goal8
Decent work and economic growth

Sustainable cities and communities

Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities
Goal11
Sustainable cities and communities

Climate action

Goal 13: Climate action
Goal13
Climate action

This Technology Transfer Advances Uruguay's

  • Nationally Determined Contribution to develop new integrated climate services and information systems, for continuous monitoring and risk mapping. Furthermore, by 2030, have developed new early warning systems and new hydrometeorological insurances, within the disaster risk reduction framework for the agricultural, coastal and health sectors, and for flood sensitive urban areas, infrastructure and other vulnerable regions. 

Context

Over the course of its history, the coastal areas of Uruguay have played a significant role in the country’s development. The coastal departments (Colonia, San José, Montevideo, Canelones, Maldonado and Rocha) currently account for some 70 per cent of the total population, 71 per cent of private households and a little more than 72 per cent of housing in Uruguay. In addition, they contribute 75 per cent of the country’s GDP and most of the places identified in the coastal areas (59 per cent) are predominantly involved in tourism.

Recent regional studies conducted for Latin America and the Caribbean demonstrate that the incidence of extreme sea levels increased between 1950 and 2008, with a greater magnitude and frequency being noted in the coastal areas of the Caribbean and Río de la Plata, with Montevideo specifically being classified as one of the continent’s most exposed cities. Sudden flooding has occurred in Río de la Plata due to a combination of meteorological and hydrological effects, the simultaneous occurrence of extra-high high tides alongside large, atmospherically-induced storm surges having raised the mean sea level (MSL) by as much as three metres above its usual height (0.91 m), leading to the stripping of beaches and dunes, damage to coastal infrastructure and risks to navigation.

The country has produced a National Climate Change Response Plan which highlights the importance of accurately identifying the impacts, vulnerabilities and adaptation measures necessary for the coastal sector.

Assistance Requested

The ultimate goal of this assistance is to establish the vulnerability to and impact of climate variability and change on coastal areas of Uruguay. More particularly, the main objective is to analyse and assess the effects on the dynamic of beaches, dunes, coastal erosion, risk of flooding and harm to ecosystems, infrastructure and the population living along the coast, as well as to productive activities such as tourism.

Specific objectives:

  • Establish the changes occurring in the marine dynamic in recent decades (sea level, sea swell, wind, meteorological tides).
  • Based on climate change scenarios, estimate the foreseeable future changes in the marine dynamic.
  • Assess the effects that these changes in the marine dynamic may have on the different natural environments and human uses of the coast.
  • Conduct a climate change risk assessment across different temporal horizons and for different geographic or socioeconomic receptors.
  • Propose adaptation strategies and alternatives.
  • Establish the foundations for subsequent studies aimed at covering other aspects not considered in this study.
  • Develop the tasks of technological transfer, training and education associated with the project.
  • Generate indicators of impact, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in the coastal zone.

Relevant Technologies and Approaches

  • Climate change vulnerability assessment
  • Coastal monitoring

Expected Benefits

In principle, the aim is to submit at least three detailed projects during the 2016-2017 period that consider different spatial scales, in line with the priorities noted in the NAP. These scales will cover departmental and regional aspects:

  • Stretches of coastline of between 30 and 50 km with a spatial resolution of approximately 25 m for analysis. In this case, the study will need to enable the identification of vulnerable coastal ecosystems and infrastructure (beaches, dunes, river mouths, ports, urban settlements, tourist resorts).
  • Stretches of coastline of around 500 km with a spatial resolution of between 5 and 10 km. In this case, the resolution will need to be lower than before and so the characterization of the different relevant coastal elements will depend on the part of the coastline, its geography and the information available in the country.
  • The level of detail that needs to be achieved in this kind of study will require the cooperation of the country’s various authorities and research bodies. This involvement will need to be formalized during the preparatory stages of the Response Plan, particularly in relation to providing the data that will be used to identify the vulnerability of the coastal area (see table of main stakeholders). This exchange will not only strengthen institutional capacities to manage information for decision-making but will also generate a management network for top-down/bottom-up adaptation.
  • The country’s academic institutions will have a tool which, in the future, could be improved and adapted for the identification of impacts, assessment of vulnerabilities, risk management and implementation of adaptation measures for Uruguay’s coastal areas.

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