New Article: “Alleviating Barriers to Urban Climate Change Adaptation through International Cooperation”

Oberlack, C. & Eisenack, K., 2013. Alleviating Barriers to Urban Climate Change Adaptation through International Cooperation. Global Environmental Change, 1–14.

Abstract: International cooperation on climate change adaptation is regarded as one of the major avenues to reduce vulnerability in developing countries. Nevertheless, it remains unclear which design properties of international arrangements match with specific problems in local adaptation processes. This paper analyses conditions and institutional design options under which international cooperation can facilitate climate adaptation in urban areas in developing countries. We conduct a qualitative meta-analysis of empirical evidence from 23 cases. Using the archetype approach, we identify re-appearing barriers and change factors in urban squatter settlements and municipal public sectors in developing countries. We characterise five generic modes of international cooperation for climate adaptation based on UNFCCC documents, process observation, and literature review. Combining these analyses, we develop testable propositions that explain how specific design options of international arrangements can alleviate barriers and make use of change factors for urban adaptation in developing countries. We find, first, that international cooperation has the most potential to tackle adaptation barriers in squatter settlements if its institutional mechanisms support improvements of procedures and rights in localised state–society interactions. Second, national or regional centres of competence may foster endogenous dynamics in municipal public sectors. Third, national adaptation policies can enable and incentivise municipal adaptation. Fourth, flexible indicators of adaptation benefits are instruments to tailor international decision making and monitoring systems to local needs. We conclude that these insights, the archetypes approach, and a multi-level study design can be used to advance research on international cooperation, barriers, and success factors for climate change adaptation.

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New Book: ‘Business and Climate Change Governance: South Africa in Comparative Perspective’

Börzel, T.A. & Hamman, R. (2013). Business and Climate Change Governance: South Africa in Comparative Perspective. Palgrave Macmillan. 

Why do business organisations contribute to climate change governance in areas of limited statehood? In many countries, governments are too weak and often also not willing to set and enforce climate change regulations. While companies have the capacities to fill the resulting governance gap, conventional wisdom expects them to take advantage by relocating their production sites in order to escape strict national regulation. Studies on South Africa, Kenya and Germany demonstrate that business contributions to the mitigation and adaptation to climate change vary significantly between countries, sectors and firms. In order to explain these variations, the contributors bring together two important literatures that rarely speak to each other – governance and business management – arguing that the threat of public regulation has an important role in motivating business efforts.

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New Article: ‘Urban Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Action in Durban, South Africa’

Roberts, D. & O’Donoghue, S. (2013). Urban Environmental Challenges and Climate Change Action in Durban, South Africa. Environment and Urbanization. DOI: 10.1177/0956247813500904

Abstract: This paper reflects on the progress made in climate change adaptation in the city of Durban since the launch of the Municipal Climate Protection Programme in 2004. This includes the initial difficulties in getting the attention of key sectors within municipal government, and how this was addressed and also served by the more detailed understanding of the range of adaptation options and their cost-benefits. There is also a better understanding of the potentials and constraints on community-based adaptation and the opposition from some landowners to measures to protect and enhance ecosystem services. The paper ends with lessons learnt that contradict some common assumptions – for instance, what approaches best build support for climate change adaptation within local governments, what measures work and from where lessons can be drawn. It also describes the perhaps unexpected linkages between local action and international influence and highlights the need for international climate change negotiations to recognize the key roles of urban governments in developing locally rooted adaptation and resilience.

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New Article: ‘Experiences of Integrated Assessment of Climate Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation Modelling in London and Durban’

Walsh, C.L., Roberts, D., Dawson, R.J., Hall, J.W., Nickson, A., Hounsome, R. (2013). Experiences of Integrated Assessment of Climate Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation Modelling in London and Durban. Environment and Urbanization.  DOI: 10.1177/0956247813501121

Abstract: The urgent need to reconfigure and transform urban areas to consume fewer resources, emit less pollution, minimize greenhouse gas production, protect natural ecosystems and increase the adaptive capacity to deal with climate risks is widely recognized. The implementation of improved sustainability measures in cities requires integrated thinking that encompasses a whole range of urban functions, often implying a major restructuring of urban energy systems, transport and the built environment, as well as a new approach to the planning and management of natural systems that service urban areas. Many local governments have a limited capacity to deal with such complex and interrelated problems, and this hampers their ability to deal with climate change. With these issues in mind, teams of scientists, practitioners and stakeholders in Durban (led by eThekwini Municipality) and London (led by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) developed city-scale integrated assessment modelling tools that represent interactions between different urban functions and objectives by linking climate change issues to broader agendas such as spatial planning. This paper reviews each integrated assessment tool, and critically analyzes their effectiveness in terms of technical approach, extent to which they meet policy needs, role of stakeholders in model development and application, barriers to their uptake and the value of and effort required for integration. While these integrated assessment tools did not provide the detailed design information sought by some decision makers, importantly they have stimulated stakeholders to think strategically and hold cross-sectoral conversations around implementing sustainability measures. Despite the technical and institutional challenges associated with the development and uptake of an integrated assessment model, we conclude that they do contribute to the quest for urban sustainability.

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New Book: ‘Managing Adaptation to Climate Risk: Beyond Fragmented Responses’

O’Brien, B. & O’Keefe, P. (2013). Managing Adaptation to Climate Risk: Beyond Fragmented Responses. Routledge.

Climate change is the single largest threat to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development. Addressing climate risk is a challenge for all. This book calls for greater collaboration between climate communities and disaster development communities. In discussing this, the book will evaluate the approaches used by each community to reduce the adverse effects of climate change. One area that offers some promise for bringing together these communities is through the concept of resilience. This term is increasingly used in each community to describe a process that embeds capacity to respond to and cope with disruptive events. This emphasizes an approach that is more focused on pre-event planning and using strategies to build resilience to hazards in an adaptation framework. The book will conclude by evaluating the scope for a holistic approach where these communities can effectively contribute to building communities that are resilient to climate driven risks.

For more information click here.


New Article: ‘Déjà Vu or Something New? The Adaptation Concept in the Climate Change Literature’

Bassett, T.J. & Fogelman, C. (2013). Déjà Vu or Something New? The Adaptation Concept in the Climate Change Literature. Geoforum. 48: 42-53.

Abstract: This paper reflects on the resurgence and meaning of the adaptation concept in the current climate change literature. We explore the extent to which the early political economic critique of the adaptation concept has influenced how it is used in this literature. That is, has the current conceptualization been enriched by the political economic critique of the 1970s and 1980s and thus represent something new? Or is the concept used in a way today that echoes previous debates; that is, is this a déjà vu experience? To answer this question, we review the early political economic critique of the natural hazards school’s interpretations of vulnerability and adaptation. We then examine the revival of the adaptation concept in the climate change literature and discuss its main interpretations. For the purposes of this paper, the climate change literature encompasses the four IPCC reports and adaptation-focused articles in four scholarly journals: Global Environmental Change, Climatic Change, Climate and Development, and Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. Our content analysis shows the dominance (70%) of ‘‘adjustment adaptation’’ approaches, which view climate impacts as the main source of vulnerability. A much smaller percentage (3%) of articles focus on the social roots of vulnerability and the necessity for political–economic change to achieve ‘‘transformative adaptation.’’ A larger share (27%) locates risk in both society and the biophysical hazard. It promotes ‘‘reformist adaptation,’’ typically through ‘‘development,’’ to reduce vulnerability within the prevailing system. We conclude with a discussion of continuity and change in the conceptualization of adaptation, and point to new research directions.

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New Article: ‘Climate Justice and Global Cities: Mapping the Emerging Discourses’

Bulkeley, H., Carmin, J., Broto, V.C., Edwards, G.A.S., Fuller, S. (2013). Climate Justice and Global Cities: Mapping the Emerging Discourses. Global Environmental Change. 1-12.

Abstract: Ever since climate change came to be a matter of political concern, questions of justice have been at the forefront of academic and policy debates in the international arena. Curiously, as attention has shifted to other sites and scales of climate change politics matters of justice have tended to be neglected. In this paper, we examine how discourses of justice are emerging within urban responses to climate change. Drawing on a database of initiatives taking place in 100 global cities and qualitative case-study research in Philadelphia, Quito and Toronto, we examine how notions of distributive and procedural justice are articulated in climate change projects and plans in relation to both adaptation and mitigation. We find that there is limited explicit concern with justice at the urban level. However, where discourses of justice are evident there are important differences emerging between urban responses to adaptation and mitigation, and between those in the north and in the south. Adaptation responses tend to stress the distribution of ‘rights’ to protection, although those in the South also stress the importance of procedural justice. Mitigation responses also stress ‘rights’ to the benefits of responding to climate change, with limited concern for ‘responsibilities’ or for procedural justice. Intriguingly, while adaptation responses tend to stress the rights of individuals, we also find discourses of collective rights emerging in relation to mitigation.

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