I started my PhD position at the University of Twente in February of 2018 in the field of climate change adaptation (CCA) in small and mid-sized cities. My research aims to explain the differences in CCA strategies, stakeholder engagement and overall processes these cities employ based on their local contexts. These findings inform the second part of my research, a design for a process guide that aims to support municipalities in their decision making process.
Adaptation to climate change has frequently been placed at the local level, as the impacts are often local and therefore require a local response. The fifth IPCC assessment report identified city and municipal governments as the key actor with regard to locally rooted adaptation action because they can, among other things, provide the necessary framework within which other stakeholders can act. Stakeholders other than the municipality need to be involved because cities are not homogenous entities where municipalities alone have the power to act. They usually only have direct control over about 30% of a city’s area and over about 2-5% of the buildings in a city. The rest is privately owned or in the hands of other public actors. Thus, if they want to adapt to climate change successfully, municipal governments depend on cooperation and collaboration with other stakeholders.
Yet, one of the identified challenges for municipalities is the engagement of and understanding between a broad range of stakeholders. This implies that while municipalities need to involve stakeholders to move forward with adaptation, they often struggle doing so. To address this problem the following question was formulated: “How can a participatory approach be designed for the specific context of climate change adaptation in small and mid-sized cities?”
To answer this research question, we conducted two in-depth case studies in Enschede and Zwolle. These two cities follow different approaches to climate change adaptation and will therefore provide insights into different kinds of adaptation action taken by mid-sized cities. The insights gained in the in-depth cases was used to guide inquiries into the status quo on adaptation in 13 additional municipalities in Overijssel. This will yield a more complete picture of climate change adaptation in this province. Both the in-depth and the comparative study feed into the design of a method that will enable practitioners to decide on a participatory approach that suits the adaptation problem and governance context at hand and supports them in reaching their process goal as well as in furthering their adaptation implementation. In a last step we look at public participation in climate change adaptation in Enschede as one case of stakeholder engagement.