Transnationalisation of climate adaptation by regional governments and the RegionsAdapt initiative

19:00 Tuesday 28 May




Joana Setzer (United Kingdom) 1; Elisa Sainz De Murieta (Spain) 2; Ibon Galarraga (Spain) 2

1 - London School of Economics and Political Science; 2 - Basque Centre for Climate Change

It is well-known that efforts to promote resilience to the impacts of climate change need to involve regional and local governments. Subnational governments define and implement climate change adaptation policies at the regional and local levels. Moreover, they seek to steer behaviour toward shared goals by engaging with other subnational governments across borders. This relationship is defined as an instance of ‘transnational climate governance’.

This article assesses the landscape of regional governments’ transnational action promoting climate change adaptation. Two aspects are emphasised. First, in contrast to transnational municipal action, there are fewer transnational regional initiatives and less analysis available. Second, in contrast to the transnationalisation of climate mitigation, there are fewer transnational adaptation initiatives and scarce examination of the transnationalisation of adaptation governance.

Addressing these gaps, we examine and discuss the RegionsAdapt initiative, the first global initiative established to support and report on adaptation efforts at the state and regional level. It was promoted by the state of Rio de Janeiro and Catalonia, and launched in Paris during COP21. Different from most transnational climate change initiatives that have a bias towards the Global North, more than half of RegionsAdapt members (35) are located in Latin America, 22% are in Africa (14), followed by North America and Europe with 6 regions in each, and finally Oceania (2) and Asia (2). Regional governments that join the initiative agree to prioritise adaptation by reviewing their strategic approach or adopting a new one. They are also required to monitor and measure their progress, reporting annually to the CDP data disclosure platform

We argue that while promoting climate adaptation at the regional level is crucial, the transnationalisation of adaptation governance can contribute to the emergence of more and better adaptation measures, and at the same time improve the visibility and aggregation of such action. The analysis is done through an assessment of the ways in which transnational adaptation networks – and RegionsAdapt in particular – address the three most pressing challenges of climate governance: how to promote, how to measure and how to monitor progress in climate adaptation.

The paper not only contributes to the literature, providing an examination of the transnationalisation of adaptation governance, but it also concludes with a policy recommendation – that incorporating adaptation into platforms such as the ‘Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action’ (NAZCA) would motivate further mobilisation and accountability of transnational adaptation.