The regional governance of climate adaptation: a framework for developing legitimate, effective, and resilient governance arrangements

C.J.A.M. Termeer, A. Dewulf, A. van Buuren, D. Huitema, S. Meijerink, T. Rayner, H.F.M.W. Rijswick, M. Wiering

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Abstract Adaptation to climate change raises important governance issues. This paper argues that it does not suffice to apply existing insights from governance literature to the issue of climate adaptation in an instrumental way only. The specific complexities of the governance of adaptation call for development of new advanced governance knowledge. The question is what kind of governance arrangements can be developed and how these arrangements can be evaluated? This paper presents a theoretical framework to study the governance of adaption. It comprises of an analysis of the specific complexities, a normative framework and key concepts for assessing and developing governance arrangements. Three complexities will be elaborated: First, important changes in local, national and European governance systems are unfolding. Governance today includes a variety of actors at different scale levels. This multi-actor, multi-sector and multi-level governance world forms the inescapable context for climate adaptation. Second, climate adaptation lacks a well-structured policy domain and practice. Adaptation is an emerging policy field with, at least for the time being, only weakly-defined ambitions, responsibilities, procedures, routines and solutions. As a result, a series of basic dilemmas have to be (re)addressed in developing the governance of adaptation. Third, decision-making in relation to climate change is knowledge-intensive and important uncertainties about the nature and scale of risks and the effectiveness of solutions will persist. In addition, the many actors involved bring with them a variety of perceptions leading to fundamental controversies. In spite of these inherent uncertainties, decisions about adaptation strategies need to be taken or prepared now. Normative principles for adaptation are needed for assessing and developing governance arrangements. Good governance of adaptation should be (a) legitimate, i.e. ensuring transparency, accountability, fairness and equity (b) effective, i.e. address the adaptation task decisively and efficiently through the right mix of norms, instruments, strategies and processes; and (c) resilient, i.e. both enabling autonomous adaptation and building long term adaptive capacity. We outline three key concepts that can guide the (re)search for effective, legitimate and resilient governance arrangements for climate adaptation: 1. Organizing connectivity refers to bringing actors, issues, sectors and scale levels together to realize creative climate adaptation options. This means taking the challenge of tailoring responses to the problems at hand, within the fragmented governance structures. This requires knowledge of designing process trajectories, organizing collaborations and partnerships, linking with related policy problems, multi-level governance and developing entrepreneurial leadership strategies. 2. (Re)allocating responsibilities and risks refers to changing the existing governance structures by changing the allocation of responsibilities and risks between a variety of actors, in order to enable climate adaptation. It requires knowledge about clarifying responsibilities, allocating costs and benefits or creating new systems of economic incentives. 3. Dealing with controversies concerns coping with the inherent uncertainties and varied knowledge frames, especially concerning the spatial and temporal scales at which to address climate adaptation. The challenge is to act without ignoring this variety and without paralyzing decision-making processes. It requires knowledge of methods of dialogue, learning, negotiation and co-production of knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2010
EventDeltas in Times of Climate Change - Rotterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 29 Sept 20101 Oct 2010


ConferenceDeltas in Times of Climate Change


Dive into the research topics of 'The regional governance of climate adaptation: a framework for developing legitimate, effective, and resilient governance arrangements'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this