Some lessons learned about politics and power in the co-production of pathways

14:00 Wednesday 29 May


Room S9


Russell Wise (Australia) 1; James Butler (Australia) 1; Seona Meharg (Australia) 1; Nate Peterson (Australia) 3; Desmond Vaghelo (Papua New Guinea) 2

1 - CSIRO Land & Water; 2 - West New Britain Provincial Administration; 3 - The Nature Conservancy

It is now widely accepted a critical adaptation challenge is to transform maladaptive and unsustainable societal practices towards climate-compatible development (IPCC, 2014). The urgency for systemic change mounts as the stresses and shocks caused by climate change become increasingly unprecedented and extreme. Tackling systemic causes of vulnerability and barriers to adaptation, however, involves politics, because it challenges the ways natural resources, money and people are managed and distributed, and who benefits. There are few (but growing numbers of) examples of how politics has been considered in the design and implementation of adaptation pathways approaches, particularly where antagonistic political relations are present. These challenges are particularly acute in less developed communities or regions, where multiple institutional arrangements operate simultaneously (e.g., formal and informal markets; deliberative democracy and traditional tribal lore/norms).

We developed a political-economy framework to guide our practical attempts to work with stakeholders in PNG to mainstream climate change into resource-use planning using adaptation pathways practices. The pathways approach was focused on building capacity through targeted, participatory co-production of problem and solution framings and building skills and competencies for adaptive decision making to take advantage of windows of opportunity and minimise deleterious effects of inevitable climate and disaster risks.

Our analysis revealed how adaptation efforts can be derailed and curtailed where only partial understanding of the multiple sources and manifestations of politics are considered in the design and implementation of the pathways approach. We also found that the approach to priming ‘truth’ and building capacity of diverse stakeholders to collectively develop adaptation pathways depends on the nature of the politics. We identify key pointers for researchers and practitioners of adaptation pathways approaches to better and pre-emptively consider the political dimensions and processes in their design and implementation.