Climate adaptation policy lock-ins: a 3x3 approach
University of Oldenburg
University of East Anglia
Adapting to worsening impacts of climate change is one of the biggest global challenges. Yet, limited action on the part of public authorities still prevails; institutions, infrastructures, technologies and societal behaviours appear resistant to change. Understanding this gap requires better knowledge of the way societies are governed, but the existing literature often overlooks this, going no further than describing ‘barriers to change’. Better explaining what we term ‘lock-ins’ requires uncovering the dynamics that create and sustain them. That is the aim of this original and cross-disciplinary study. Taking an empirical, but theoretically reflective, approach, it examines three policy sectors central to climate adaptation - water management, health care, and biodiversity and nature conservation – in three countries: Germany, Netherlands and the UK. Although in principle all three are well equipped to deal with climate adaptation, each is subject to lock-in. The project will use a mixed methods approach to understand why lock-ins arise and persist in each instance, and will employ Qualitative Comparative Analysis to better understand the dynamics of lock-ins as they affect climate adaptation. It will confront observed (in)action with different approaches for explaining lock-ins, advance conceptual and empirical understanding of how lock-ins emerge and endure, and use the findings to provide informed recommendations for the design of more effective adaptation policies.