Glob. Environ. Change (2014)

Climate change adaptation policies are being increasingly implemented in Europe. Drivers of, and barriers to, the adoption and diffusion of adaptation measures have been discussed but not systematically analysed — a gap in knowledge with serious practical consequences.

Eric Massey of VU University, The Netherlands, and colleagues compiled a unique database of national climate change adaptation policies by surveying a sample of policy makers directly working on adaptation across 29 European countries. Initially open from May to September 2012, the survey had to be run again from March to June of the following year, given the difficulties in reaching respondents. They found the most important driver of the adoption and diffusion of climate change adaptation policies to be past impacts of extreme weather events for all countries, whereas lack of resources seems to be the top barrier. The researchers also attempted to measure whether the rapid uptake of adaptation policies is leading to the emergence of climate change adaptation as a new policy field — an outcome so far observed in the case of the United Kingdom. Based on the level of institutional order and substantive authority that characterize adaptation policies in the sample, adaptation is emerging as a distinct policy field, in at least some of the countries included.