Governance Arrangements for the Adaptation to Climate Change

C.J.A.M. Termeer, Arwin Van Buuren, A.R.P.J. Dewulf, Dave Huitema, Heleen L.P. Mees, Sander Meijerink, H.F.M.W. Rijswick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Adaptation to climate change is not only a technical issue; above all, it is a matter of governance. Governance is more than government and includes the totality of interactions in which public as well as private actors participate, aiming to solve societal problems. Adaptation governance poses some specific, demanding challenges, such as the context of institutional fragmentation, as climate change involves almost all policy domains and governance levels; the persistent uncertainties about the nature and scale of risks and proposed solutions; and the need to make short-term policies based on long-term projections. Furthermore, adaptation is an emerging policy field with, at least for the time being, only weakly defined ambitions, responsibilities, procedures, routines, and solutions. Many scholars have already shown that complex problems, such as adaptation to climate change, cannot be solved in a straightforward way with actions taken by a hierarchic or monocentric form of governance. This raises the question of how to develop governance arrangements that contribute to realizing adaptation options and increasing the adaptive capacity of society. A series of seven basic elements have to be addressed in designing climate adaptation governance arrangements: the framing of the problem, the level(s) at which to act, the alignment across sectoral boundaries, the timing of the policies, the selection of policy instruments, the organization of the science-policy interface, and the most appropriate form of leadership. For each of these elements, this chapter suggests some tentative design principles. In addition to effectiveness and legitimacy, resilience is an important criterion for evaluating these arrangements. The development of governance arrangements is always context- and time-specific, and constrained by the formal and informal rules of existing institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages31
ISBN (Print)9780190228620
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


  • climate governance
  • governance arrangements
  • adaptation to climate change
  • design principles

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