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Implementation arrangements for climate adaptation in the Netherlands: characteristics and underlying mechanisms of adaptive governance

Arwin van Buuren, Department of Public Administration, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Andrea M. Keessen, Utrecht Centre for Water Oceans and Sustainability Law, Utrecht University
Corniel van Leeuwen, Department of Public Administration, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Jasper Eshuis, Department of Public Administration, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Gerald Jan Ellen, Urban Water and Subsurface Management, Deltares


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Adaptation to climate change is a rapidly emerging policy domain. Over the last decade we have witnessed many attempts to enhance the climate robustness of agriculture, urban development, water systems, and nature to an increase in flood and drought risks due to a higher variability in rainfall patterns and sea level rise. In the vulnerable Dutch delta, regional authorities have developed adaptation measures that deal with flood risk, the availability of fresh water, subsidence, and salt water intrusion. In view of all the uncertainties that surround climate change, scientists emphasize that it should be possible to make changes when conditions change or insights evolve. The concept of adaptive governance has been introduced to facilitate the process of climate adaptation. Adaptive governance requires the availability of governance arrangements that facilitate adaptiveness by being flexible to enable adjustment.
Although flexible arrangements for adaptation to climate change make sense from an adaptive governance perspective, from a more bureaucratic, political, and legal perspective, there might be good reasons to make arrangements as solid and robust as possible. In this article we answer the question to what extent the arrangements used to implement various adaptation measures are really adaptive and what mechanisms play a role in obstructing the accomplishment of adaptive arrangements. By analyzing and comparing nine adaptation cases, dealing with different climate issues, and the arrangements used to implement them from both a governance and a legal perspective, we are able to get more detailed insight into the main characteristics of the selected arrangements, their degree of adaptiveness, and the main hampering mechanisms for the creation or functioning of adaptive arrangements.

Key words

adaptive governance; climate adaptation; flexible arrangements; governance; implementation

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087