Implementation arrangements for climate adaptation in the Netherlands: characteristics and underlying mechanisms of adaptive governance

Arwin van Buuren, A Keessen, CWGJ (Corniel) van der Leeuwen, Jasper Eshuis, G-J Ellen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Climate adaptation is a rapidly emerging policy domain. Over the last decade we can witness many attempts to enhance the climate robustness of agriculture, spatial planning, water systems and nature. Especially when it comes to climate issues like periods of drought, extreme rainfall and the risk of flooding, regional authorities develop all kinds of adaptation strategies to be prepared to climate change. In the vulnerable Dutch delta, adaptation measures have to deal with flood risk, the availability of freshwater, soil drop and salt water intrusion. To reduce investments costs and enhance the possibility of changing course, these adaptation strategies are frequently meant to be adaptive. In view of all the uncertainties that surround climate change, it should be possible to make changes when conditions change or insights evolve. This fits in a crucial key principle of adaptive governance: to stimulate continuous learning by step-wise implementing strategies. Adaptive governance requires the availability of governance arrangements that facilitate adaptiveness by being flexible to enable adjustment. Although flexible arrangements are perfectly arguable from an adaptive governance perspective, from a more bureaucratic, political and legal perspective there are important reasons to make arrangements as solid and robust as possible. In this article we answer the question to what extent the arrangements used to implement various adaptation strategies are really adaptive and what mechanisms play a role in obstructing the accomplishment of adaptive arrangements. By analyzing and comparing 10 adaptation strategies (dealing with different climate issues) and the arrangements used to implement them, we are able to get a more detailed insight in the main characteristics of adaptive arrangements, their degree of adaptiveness and the main mechanisms that act as barriers to the creation or functioning of adaptive arrangements. In this article we use two disciplinary perspectives to answer this question. We use both a legal and a governance perspective to describe the arrangements and their flexibility and the factors impeding flexibility.
Original languageEnglish
Article number11
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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