Challenging barriers in the governance of climate change adaptation

Climate change adaptation is necessary to manage to the current and projected impacts of climate change. But adaptation is not a straightforward process and navigating the many possible barriers to adaptation can prove to be challenging. This dissertation explores what actors in the governance of adaptation encounter as barriers to adaptation and how they deal with them.

Promovendus GR (Robbert) Biesbroek PhD
Promotor prof.dr. P (Pavel) Kabat CJAM (Katrien) Termeer
Copromotor dr. JEM (Judith) Klostermann
Organisatie Wageningen University, Water Systems and Global Change, Public Administration and Policy

ma 27 januari 2014 16:00 tot 17:30

Locatie Auditorium, building number 362
Generaal Foulkesweg 1
6703 BG Wageningen

The academic literature lists hundreds of possible barriers to adaptation. Policy makers in the Netherlands and United Kingdom consider some to be the most important barriers to successful climate change adaptation: the long term impacts of climate change and the short term decision making cycles, the lack of financial resources, and the unclear social costs and benefits.

Researchers should stop producing lists of barriers when the aim is to explain why adaptation to climate change is challenging.
G. Robbert Biesbroek

Listing barriers is a way for actors to give meaning to complex processes by simplifying their experiences. There is, however, the danger that a too simple understanding of the barriers results in fixation on too simple solutions. An often heard solution to the barrier “lack of financial resources”  is “more financial resources”.

By analysing the underlying complex processes, recurring patterns can be identified that explain why adaptation often proves to be challenging. Understanding these patterns leads to better interventions to break through them. One of the cases in the dissertation, the Water Plaza in Rotterdam, demonstrates that frame polarization, conflict infection, and the risk-innovation paradox resulted in a policy impasse. Interventions by changing the pilot location, reframing the concept of water plaza, and using other governance arrangements ensured successful implementation of the first Water Plaza.