Thursday, September 15, 2016

Coping with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales: The 5-R Governance Capabilities

As part of a special issue on Working with wicked problems in socio-ecological systems a paper based on a collaborative effort between members of the Public Administration and Policy (Wageningen University) has been published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. The paper builds on and extends the Governance Capabilities framework developed earlier by our group (see Termeer et al., 2013), and applies to the analysis of the governance of climate change adaptation. Each of the governance capabilities addresses a particular dimension of wicked problems, and absence of the capability leads to particular risks (see the table below).

This is the abstract of the paper:
Adapting social-ecological systems to the projected effects of climate change is not only a complex technical matter but above all a demanding governance issue. As climate change has all the characteristics of a wicked problem, conventional strategies of governance do not seem to work. However, most conventional governance institutions are poorly equipped to enable, or at least tolerate, innovative strategies. This paper analyses the various strategies used to cope with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales, and the institutional conditions that enable or constrain such strategies. For this, it relies on a theoretical framework consisting of five governance capabilities that are considered crucial for coping with wicked problems: reflexivity, resilience, responsiveness, revitalization and rescaling. This framework is used to analyse the governance of adaptation to climate change at three different levels: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its activities to assist adaptation; the European Union and its climate adaptation strategy; and the Netherlands and its Delta Program. The results show that conventional governance strategies are rather absent and that mixtures of reflexive, resilient, responsive, revitalizing and rescaling strategies were visible at all levels, although not equally well developed and important. In contrast to the literature, we found many examples of enabling institutional conditions. The constraining conditions, which were also present, tend to lead more to postponement than to obstruction of decision-making processes.
Termeer, C. J. A. M., Dewulf, A., Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, S. I., Vink, M. J., & Vliet, M. van (2016). Coping with the wicked problem of climate adaptation across scales: The Five R Governance Capabilities. Landscape and Urban Planning, 154, 11–19.

The paper can be found at or downloaded here