RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


13 Governing Adaptation (1)
Affiliation Climate Change Research Group
Convenor(s) Chris Donaldson (University Of East Anglia, UK)
Darren Clarke (Maynooth University, Ireland)
Chair(s) Chris Donaldson (University Of East Anglia, UK)
Darren Clarke (Maynooth University, Ireland)
Timetable Wednesday 31 August 2016, Session 1 (09:00 - 10:40)
Session abstract Climate change and the need to pursue adaptation strategies at local and national levels have gained significant attention in recent times with policy-makers having a broad set of tools at their disposal to adapt to such challenges. Strategies range from incremental step changes through to transformative adaptation pathways (Kates et al., 2012). In this context, incremental adaptations build on pre-existing strategies, often focusing on limited no/low regret pathways, whilst transformational adaptations aim for more significant physical or social changes in form, structure or underlying values (Pelling et al., 2014, O’Brien, 2012). The complexities of implementing such strategies are influenced by the diversity of actors and the multiple scales through which adaptation and disasters are governed. Understanding the nexus between governance processes and adaptation strategies at different scales is crucial as governments and societies are increasingly expected to recognise, and respond in a just manner to the impacts of climate change now and in the future. Policy aims for adaptation strategies and their outcomes to be fair and just are crucially important, without which, resistance to change by those affected is likely to result. Problems arise when strategies are deemed controversial by some stakeholders. In contrast, where governance processes are perceived as fair by stakeholders, this can facilitate the implementation of strategies which might otherwise fail. These sessions therefore examine the role of governance processes and outcomes in relation to climate change adaptation and disaster risk management at various scales drawing on a number of empirical studies throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Focusing on a number of cross-cutting themes including barriers to climate change adaptation, the role of stakeholders in climate change governance processes, ideologies versus realities of transformative adaptation strategies and issues of power, justice and responsibility with respect to adaptation and disaster risk management the sessions will explore the interlinked connections between the papers presented and discuss how this may facilitate more appropriate means for governing adaptation and disaster risk management in the future.
Linked Sessions Governing Adaptation (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Adaptive coastal governance in practice: A critical analysis of long-term multi-stakeholder strategy-making at the German Wadden Sea Coast
Cormac Walsh (University of Hamburg, Germany)
The federal state of Schleswig-Holstein has recently published a strategy to guide coastal management and nature protection at the Wadden Sea coast for the period up to 2100. In the context of climate change adaptation, a space has opened up for a common strategy; jointly prepared and claimed by stakeholders in both coastal protection and nature protection. This multi-stakeholder approach has emerged against the background of a governance landscape hitherto characterised by vertically-integrated sectoral governance and a history of antagonistic relations between actors in coastal and nature protection. This paper critically examines the extent to which the Wadden Sea 2100 strategy represents a transformative paradigm shift towards adaptive multi-stakeholder coastal governance. The analysis, drawing on qualitative interviews with key participants, will focus in particular on the interaction of diverse knowledge frames, institutional rationalities and understandings of nature-culture relations in the strategy-making process.

The politics of scale and disaster risk governance: Barriers to decentralisation in Portland, Jamaica
Sophie Blackburn (King's College London, UK)
Good governance has been clearly identified as a priority for deep disaster vulnerability reduction and resilience-building. In particular, decentralisation has been lauded as a mechanism to democratise risk management decision-making, by redistributing power across scales in favour of local actors. However, in practice, decentralised risk management frameworks have often been critiqued for being incomplete and exclusionary. This paper argues that the politics of scale offers a neglected yet highly valuable framework to understand the construction of limits to decentred power and agency, which cause these apparent gaps between decentralisation as ideology, policy and practice. Scale theory offers this by providing an insight into the dynamics, which define where power is located within risk governance regimes, and why. With reference to a case study of Jamaica's decentralised disaster management system, the paper illustrates the processes through which scaled risk governance systems can be used, distorted, and shaped by their constituent actors. The analysis identifies three processes of incomplete decentralisation, scale-jumping, and scalar disconnect, as being responsible for the reinforcement of a state-centric power asymmetry within the national disaster management system and the stripping of local agency. Hence, these processes are highlighted as fundamental barriers to the aspirations of a framework that claims decentralisation as a normative goal. The conclusions drawn in this paper are significant for critical geographers and policy-makers interested in the conditions for equitable and effective risk governance policy, and who view local leadership as being necessary for long-term vulnerability reduction.
Problematizing the multi-scalar governance of climate adaptation: From science-policy expectation framing of transformation at the international scale to policy-reality implementation of resilience at the local scale
Andrew Kythreotis (Cardiff University, UK)
This paper problematizes the multi-scalar governance of climate adaptation between international and UK local scales of governance. I argue that the way transformative adaptation is framed by the IPCC at the international scale does not reflect the realities of local adaptation policy and governance implementation in the UK. Using Pelling's (2011) framework of adaptation as resilience, transition and transformation, I provide empirical evidence that UK local adaptation policy and governance is generally characterized by a subsuming of adaptation planning into a generic, neoliberal resilience framework that is strengthened through horizontal governance working. This is in contrast to the normative international framings of transformation as reflecting more radical paradigms, goals, or values towards promoting adaptation through opportunity spaces and climate resilient pathways. This paper highlights how the multi-scalar governance of adaptation is dominated by an inherent dichotomy of science-policy expectation framing of transformation at the international scale vis-a-vis policy reality implementation of neoliberal resilience at the local scale.

Adaptation to the Impacts of Climate Change in Scottish Island Communities
Fiona Cunningham (University of St Andrews, UK)
The Scottish Islands are peripheral locations that are physically exposed to storms and coastal flooding; the frequency and magnitude of which are likely to be exacerbated under changing climatic conditions. Key questions remain about the motivations and priorities of small island communities for adapting to the impacts of climate change. The research reviews and develops theory on the scale of climate change adaptation measures, and considers the appropriateness of top down vs bottom up approaches, given the diversity of Scottish island contexts. Communities in South Uist (Outer Hebrides), Westray (Orkney) and Unst (Shetland) formed a multiple-case study approach. Empirical evidence was drawn from focus groups which explored local perspectives on priorities for climate change adaptation in the case study communities. The findings highlight local motivations behind adaptation priorities within each case study, and show significant variation across all cases, despite the communities being of similar population, demographic profile and island context. The research contributes to the debate on 'one-size-fits-all' adaptation planning. The findings support the argument that a uniform national approach to adaptation is not sufficient where local priorities differ significantly. The study develops deeper knowledge of the interface between community-based action and strategic policy in climate change governance processes and there is scope to apply a similar approach to understand adaptation planning priorities in other small island settings.

Social barriers to adaptation: learning from the case of flood risk management
Darren Clarke (Maynooth University, Ireland)
Much research in relation to climate change adaptation focuses on the adaptive capacity of societies, organisations, governments and ecosystems, exploring the social, human, informational, governance and technical resources that facilitate or constrain the capacity to adapt to a changing climate (Yohe & Tol, 2002). However, to date, limited scholarly attention has been given to social and cultural barriers to adaptation, particularly in developed countries. Such social and cultural barriers can range from formal and informal institutions, norms, values and perceptions of risk amongst others (Jones & Boyd, 2011). Indeed, research tends to focus on barriers to adaptation without understanding the mediating influences under which such barriers emerge (Biesbroek et el., 2013). Understanding those conditioning influences in the context of barriers to adaptation is crucial in illustrating the root cause of such barriers so that they can be addressed for future adaptation strategies. This research examines the social and cultural barriers to adaptation in two Irish communities, which constrained the process and outcomes in the context of proposed flood risk management strategies, namely in Clontarf, Co. Dublin and Skibbereen, Co. Cork. In so doing, it adds to the limited empirical research on social barriers to adaptation and allows for a cross-case study comparison of those barriers and the mediating influences under which these barriers emerge such that lessons can be learned on how to overcome these obstacles in the future and enable adaptation strategies to become embedded at a local level.