New paper on institutionalisation of urban climate adaptation

9th September, 2022

Comparative studies of urban adaptation have evaluated the progress, means and scope of adaptation planning. Practice on the ground shows that the local politics of climate adaptation advance through various strategies to align different interests and spheres of action or disrupt mainstream practices, which translates into a wide range of interventions.

This paper focuses on understanding the dynamics and tools that enable the institutionalisation of adaptation practices in local governments, i.e. the means through which adaptation practices, beyond plans and policies, are embedded in the routines of urban governance. It presents a framework to analyse the institutionalisation of adaptation that maps stages and tools with the potential to deliver adaptation in urban areas. Adaptation is framed as a learning process involving overlapping phases of recognition (of needs, capacities and actors), groundwork (knowledge generation) and action on the ground (change). The framework compares three Spanish local government initiatives (Bilbao, Barcelona and Madrid).

The analysis shows that adaptation can be effectively incorporated into standard rules, norms and practices using combinations of tools and spatial and temporal scales. The coupled stages of recognition, groundwork and action highlight the importance of long-term learning processes to engage with the temporal dimensions of adaptation governance.