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The governance of climate change adaptation in selected OECD countries

Anja Bauer
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Judith Feichtinger
Reinhard Steurer
BOKU - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper shows how governments in selected OECD countries develop and implement adaptation policies. It aims to provide insights on the strengths and weaknesses of governance approaches and their linkages to adaptation policies. The paper first introduces four governance challenges that play a key role in the context of climate change, i.e. (i) how to better integrate adaptation policies horizontally across policy sectors and (ii) vertically across jurisdictional levels, (iii) how to deal with uncertainties and integrate knowledge in adaptation policy decisions and, (iv), how to involve non-state stakeholders in adaptation decisions. It then summarises the results of a qualitative telephone survey, showing how ten OECD countries (Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and the UK) aim to cope with these challenges by employing a variety of governance approaches (such as inter-ministerial bodies facilitating horizontal integration or scientific councils addressing uncertainties). Our empirical results show that most governance approaches are restricted to soft, voluntary ways of coordination and awareness raising, and that national adaptation strategies often mark a centre piece around which complex governance setups emerge. To probe the governance approaches identified in the survey the paper then summarises case studies scrutinising how some of the surveyed governance approaches in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Canada shape adaptation policies at national and sub-national levels. The case studies reveal governance approaches that look good on the surface but face limitations and difficulties on the ground of actual policy making. The paper concludes with a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of governance approaches, and it explores their transferability to other contexts.