Drivers of climate change adaptation and barriers to its implementation in Europe

16:15 Tuesday 28 May


Room S7


Oliver Gebhardt (Germany) 1; Olivia Rendón (United Kingdom) 2; Jouni Paavola (United Kingdom) 3

1 - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Department of Economics; 2 - Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Sea and Society Group; 3 - University of Leeds, School of Earth and Environment

Climate change adaptation strategies are increasingly implemented in Europe and elsewhere. Yet it is not well understood what drives or hinders adaptation and how adaptation barriers can be overcome.

We develop a framework to analyse enabling and hindering factors at different stages of climate change adaptation and apply it to a dataset including 17 case studies all across Europe focussing on adaptation in the agricultural sector, different urban contexts and coastal areas. A multitude of grey, green and soft adaptations measures are investigated at the different stages of adaptation progress established by the Adaptation Support Tool from Climate-ADAPT and from different perspectives (retrospective, on-going, prospective). We analyse what barriers and drivers occur at different stages of adaptation progress, and what actions help overcoming these barriers.

Data was collected from local stakeholders using a pretested questionnaire, which addressed the importance of these factors alongside questions on particular barriers, drivers and strategies for overcoming barriers. The questionnaire was completed using document and literature reviews, interviews and workshops. Data analysis starts with an overview of the relative importance of the driving or hindering factors, followed by an inventory of drivers and barriers of adaptation using the above classification and a detailed investigation of strategies for overcoming adaptation barriers.

Our findings indicate that framing is particularly relevant at early stages of adaptation development as it links climate change adaptation to well-established and institutionalized discourses of other policy areas. As adaptation progresses corresponding activities are more and more explicitly recognized (and labelled) as climate change adaptation. In advanced cases, actors have the skills, attitudes and motivation for driving adaptation. Regulations often promote adaptation and local, non-climatic regulations are particularly important in this regard.

Results corroborate the importance of many barriers identified earlier in the literature. But the barriers and drivers in our cases do not fit neatly into the stages of the decision-making process or explaining factors. Lags exist between local institutions and regulations and wider regional changes, which create temporary barriers to adaptation.

Most barriers overcome are contemporary and proximate. This resonates with the measures used to overcome the barriers, such as participatory approaches that are in direct control of actors. In contrast, many barriers not yet overcome involve legacy (e.g. governance structures) and remoteness (e.g. national-level changes). We link the process of overcoming barriers to factors discussed in the literature and provide guidance on potential ways to overcome common barriers.