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The Influence of Forums and Multilevel Governance on the Climate Adaptation Practices of Australian Organizations

Lorraine E. Bates, CSIRO Social and Economic Sciences Program
Melissa Green, CSIRO Social and Economic Sciences Program
Rosemary Leonard, CSIRO Social and Economic Sciences Program
Iain Walker, CSIRO Social and Economic Sciences Program

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06120-180462

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Abstract

To date, there are few regulations and policies relating to climate change in Australia. Uncertainty about the timing, structure, and potential impact of proposed legislation such as a national carbon abatement scheme, is leading to planning delays across the country. To assist with these policy uncertainties, organizations can embed themselves in multilevel governance frameworks that inform, structure, and facilitate strategic development, planning, and action. As part of these networks, organizational representatives also engage in formal and informal forums, a type of interorganizational relationship, which can include industry task forces, policy development committees, interagency groups, and specific climate change committees. Forums constitute an additional level of governance that influences decision making.



The patterns of relationships within these multilevel governance frameworks are examined in this paper, with a focus on the forum level of organizational cooperation. Specifically, we investigate the type of forums operating and their role in supporting organizational responses to climate change. A series of interviews and focus groups were conducted in two study areas, the Swan Canning region of Western Australia and the Hunter / Central Coast region of New South Wales. The results indicate that organizations participate in a diverse range of forums. Further, forums appear to play a key role in the everyday business of organizations by enhancing their ability to plan and address a range of issues, including those associated with climate change. In addition the research highlights some of the barriers and drivers for the development and implementation of climate adaptation practices that emerge from forum discussions. For example, a lack of government guidance in interpreting climate change policy was described as a barrier yet access to the knowledge and expertise of participants was highlighted as a potential driver. The paper discusses how an ability to create new forums and utilize existing nonclimate related forums assists organizations in addressing climate change impacts. We contend that forums constitute a level of governance deeply embedded in organizational practice that influences both their capacity and motivation to undertake climate adaptation. Our findings suggest that research investigating the rules that govern forums and the structural properties of the networks in which they are embedded is required to further understand the role of multilevel governance in shaping organizational responses to climate change.

Key words

climate adaptation; climate change; decision making; forums; multilevel governance; networks; organization
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087