Enhancing the governance of local climate change adaptation: success factors and recommendations to overcome implementation barriers in small Austrian municipalities

11:15 Tuesday 28 May


Room S13


Wolfgang Lexer (Austria) 1; Therese Stickler (Austria) 1; Daniel Buschmann (Austria) 1; Reinhard Steurer (Austria) 2; Judith Feichtinger (Austria) 3

1 - Environment Agency Austria; 2 - University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna; 3 - Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI), Vienna

While a research gap on local adaptation in small European municipalities has been ascertained earlier, little attention has yet been drawn on the gap in respective policy making. Apart from large cities, adaptation has hardly entered municipal agendas, and experiences with practicable pathways in terms of mainstreaming, institutionalising and implementing municipal adaptation are still widely lacking. We present results of a current research project that addresses this gap by (a) learning from available experiences with implementing climate mitigation and sustainability policies in Austrian municipalities, and (b) analysing frontrunner experiences with local adaptation in other countries. Based on the comparison and synthesis of success factors, barriers and lessons learnt from both local policy cases, we subsequently developed reality-checked policy designs for implementing local adaptation within a multi-level governance setting. As key results, we present structured recommendations for the governance of local climate adaptation that cover both the agenda-setting and implementation phases and are relevant and applicable for local adaptation practitioners.

Our empirical analysis is based on literature reviews and comparative case studies on a) local environmental policy diffusion in Austria, and b) local adaptation in small non-Austrian municipalities. Guideline-based expert interviews, focus group discussions, and qualitative data analysis were employed in both thematic work streams. By involving stakeholders in citizen science-based interaction formats, we were able to co-develop structured guidelines for municipal adaptation pathways.

Building on context-dependent combinations of success factors and strategies to overcome barriers, we provide for the first time reality-anchored recommendations for entering adaptation onto local agendas and integrating its implementation in municipal structures and processes in a durable way. This includes an appraisal of (a) in how far mitigation policies have paved the way for adaptation policy making in Austrian municipalities, and (b) in how far non-Austrian experiences with municipal adaptation governance can be applied in Austria.

The resulting recommendations are feasible in particular under federal state context conditions similar to Austria. While some courses of action can be implemented by the municipalities themselves, the majority of them depend on at least one further level of governance. Our guidance therefore outlines the specific roles and contributions by actors on multiple levels and addresses political and administrative decision-makers in local authorities, other municipal actors with professional adaptation-related responsibilities, policy diffusion / transfer / multiplier agents, and policy makers on regional and national government levels. The guidance document is illustrated by vivid practice examples, meant to stimulate its actual use.