Barriers to climate change adaptation in the Netherlands

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Review of recent literature on adaptation to climate change and general literature on policy processes shows that there are a large number of barriers that hamper the development and implementation of climate change adaptation strategies. To reduce and manage the number of barriers and combine both streams of literature, we propose seven clusters of barriers to adaptation. Little is known, however, about the relative importance of these barriers to climate change adaptation policies and practices. An online survey was conducted between March 2010 and July 2010 among 264 scientists, policymakers, and private actors from different sectors and levels who are involved in climate change adaptation projects and programmes in the Netherlands. The survey aimed to gather their experiences with, and perceptions of, the barriers identified in the literature and encountered in their daily work. Both climate-related and non-climate-related barriers were included in the survey. Data were subjected to both qualitative and quantitative analysis. A survey feedback workshop was organized to discuss the results with several of the survey respondents. Results of this study revealed that respondents considered conflicting timescales as the most important cluster of barriers to adaptation. Other highly ranked barriers include conflicting interests; lack of financial resources; unclear division of tasks and responsibilities; uncertain societal costs and future benefits; and fragmentation within and between scales of governance. Furthermore, the analysis demonstrated that scales matter in understanding the barriers to adaptation: actors from lowlevels of governance seem to consider the barriers as more severe than actors from high levels of governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-199
JournalClimate Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • climatic change
  • climate adaptation
  • governance
  • scientific research
  • inventories


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