Everybody should contribute, but not too much. An exploration of citizen responsibilization for adaptation by local governments in The Netherlands

16:15 Tuesday 28 May




Caroline Uittenbroek Uittenbroek (Netherlands) 1; Heleen Mees (Netherlands) 1; Dries Hegger (Netherlands) 1; Peter Driessen (Netherlands) 1

1 - Utrecht University

Involving citizens in adaptation to climate change is promising as many adaptation measures can be implemented by citizens in and around their homes and communities. Citizens are increasingly encouraged to take up responsibilities for climate adaptation planning and action. Yet, while local governments increasingly expect citizens to contribute to solving adaptation issues, they are struggling with how and to what extent they should involve them. Research has shown that so far local governments still carry most of responsibilities for adaptation.

This study addresses the question of to what extent local governments want to shift responsibilities to citizens in climate change adaptation. It does so by analyzing a) which types of responsibilities local governments think citizens can take up in the different stages of adaptation planning, and b) which types of responsibilities local governments want to delegate to citizens in the different stages of adaptation planning. The underlying assumption is that any differences between the ïcan’ and the ïwant’ question may provide explanations for the limited shift of responsibilities towards citizens in the current empirical practice.

Findings are based on three workshops with policy practitioners working for local governments in The Netherlands. They show that local governments do not consider citizens incapable of taking up responsibilities for climate adaptation, but they do not always want to transfer such responsibilities. The discrepancies between the ïcan’ and the ïwant’ that we found in this study, highlight that local governments are struggling with issues such as how to ensure an equal division of resources between different citizen groups/neighborhoods; with how to deal with citizens who are in fact pursuing their own benefits rather than producing a public adaptation good; with potential externalities for other citizens; and with guaranteeing a certain quality level for the public space. Policy practitioners feel that they will remain ultimately accountable for the adequate provision of public adaptation goods for all citizens. This research project contributes to the scientific and societal debate on responsibilities for climate change adaptation and presents key conditions for successful citizen engagement in implementing adaptation measures.