The adaptive capacity of institutions

Published on
February 10, 2015


Gupta, J., Bergsma, E., Termeer, C.J.A.M., Biesbroek, G.R., Brink, M. van den, Jong, P., Klostermann, J. E.M., Meijerink, S. & Nooteboom, S. (2015). The adaptive capacity of institutions in the spatial planning, water, agriculture and nature sectors in the Netherlands. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change (online 26.1.2015).


The climate change problem calls for a continuously responding society. This raises the question: Do our institutions allow and encourage society to continuously adapt to climate change? This paper uses the Adaptive Capacity Wheel (ACW) to assess the adaptive capacity of formal and informal institutions in four sectors in the Netherlands: spatial planning, water, agriculture and nature. Formal institutions are examined through an assessment of 11 key policy documents and informal institutions are analysed through four case studies covering each sector. Based on these ACW analyses, both sector-specific and more general strengths and weaknesses of the adaptive capacity of institutions in the Netherlands are identified. The paper concludes that the most important challenge for increasing institutional adaptive capacity lies in combining decentralized, participatory approaches with more top-down methods that generate leadership (visions, goals) standards, instruments, resources and monitoring.