The IPCC global sea-level rise projections made in 1990 set the framework for the coastal policy response to sea-level rise in England and Wales. It was predicted that sea-level rise would result in an increase in wave energy at the cliff foot and accelerated cliff recession. The 50 year recession records for the Holderness cliffs, UK, have been examined to establish whether there has been acceleration in recession rates since the early 1990s. As relative sea level has risen over the second half of the 20th century, so have Holderness cliff recession rates, from around 1.2 m a−1 in the early 1950s to around 1.5 m a−1 by 2000. However, there has been no significant acceleration in the rate of global sea-level rise since 1990 and no rapid increase in the recession rate. However, the Holderness data series may show responses to decadal-scale sea-level changes associated with the 18.6 year nodal tidal cycle.