Strengths and weaknesses in climate change adaptation governance – a comparison across six European regions

11:15 Tuesday 28 May


Room S13


Henk-Jan Van Alphen (Netherlands) 1; Eduard Interwies (Germany) 2; Stefan Görlitz (Germany) 2

1 - KWR; 2 - Intersus

In Europe, environmental and climate governance traditionally belongs to the domain of the state, where governmental programs are set up to protect valuable environmental resources and provide safety against environmental hazards. Issues like nature conservation and flood defense have always been seen as public goods, which should be provided by the state as the guardian of the public interest.

Today, these governmentally-led policy approaches seem to reach their limits in a changing hydrological and political climate. Hydrological climate change asks for a renewed investment in environmental adaptation policies to continue to ensure environmental protection and safety. However, in the current political climate, climate change adaptation is increasingly moved to the private domain, with private actors held responsible for preparing and adapting to climatic changes. For example, floods are increasingly seen as a problem caused by the human development of floodplains, and floodplain occupants are increasingly held responsible for protecting their properties against floods.

In this context, policy approaches to environmental governance are shifting. Climate adaptation in Europe is characterized by a mix of policy instruments, ranging from traditional (infrastructural) governmental programs to new behavioral and regulatory policies.

This presentation comparatively analyses the policy and governance contexts of six European regions that are affected by different hydrological impacts of climate change, drawing on the results of the BINGO project. The results demonstrate that a major governance strength across regions lies in the organization of management capacities to deal with the present day and near future water-related risks. Weaknesses are identified in focusing more on historical risks, and not integrating near future hydrological developments, and in a high degree of governmental fragmentation in managing hydrological issues and risks, i.e. different sub-domains of water management are dealt with under separate policies and are governed by different responsible agencies. Consequently, information about current performance of the water system is scattered and coordinative efforts, which are key to developing adaptation strategies, are hampered.

In this comparative assessment of governance strengths and weaknesses for climate change adaptation in the six BINGO research sites, three main governance challenges are identified. These are illustrated with the main climate change adaptation strategies planned and/or implemented in the sites, based on several European databases for climate change adaptation measures such as PREPARED, Climate-ADAPT and BINGO.