Retreat of settlements to adapt to climate change

Municipalities must adapt to climate changeClick to enlarge
Municipalities must adapt to climate change
Source: mb67 / Fotolia.com

Settlement contraction is a possible measure to adapt to climate change and address the issue of flooding which will become more frequent in future. In shrinking rural areas it could help eliminate the consequences of demographic change. But is law already developed to the point that such measures could be enforced?

A current research project commissioned by the German Environment Agency has analyzed this subject.

Based on practical case studies and an analysis of the relevant legal framework, the final report of the project shows that settlement contraction as a policy instrument (cessation of uses and/or demolition of residential, commercial and development infrastructures) to address climate change or demographic change cannot be found directly in current law. On the contrary, spatial planning, building and sectoral planning law predominantly contains instruments for steering and implementing settlement and infrastructure growth.
Nevertheless, land use planning authorities at state, regional and local level have the possibility to take preventative action within the framework of a long-term contraction concept. By making stipulations on the regional structure and the use of open spaces, they can thus prevent settlements and traffic areas that are not sufficiently robust from being established in areas that are particularly at risk. Interventions in the existing building stock and infrastructure itself is permitted in regulatory law only in specific individual cases. The next step could be making selected adjustments to the legal framework. These must then be discussed further and tested in practice.