The emergence of climate change adaptation as a new field of public policy in Europe

E.E. Massey, D. Huitema

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Over the past decade, climate change adaptation has become an integral item on the climate policy agendas of several European countries. As such, researchers have begun to question what concrete changes in polices are occurring at national levels and what dynamics can explain these changes. While new laws, policies and institutions have been created to deliver adaptation, supported through processes of cross-national policy innovation and learning, another interesting observation being made is that adaptation is steadily emerging into a new separate and distinct policy field in a handful of countries. The purpose of this article is twofold: first, to empirically map where and to what degree adaptation is emerging as a policy field; second, to theoretically and empirically explore the drivers underpinning policy field emergence. Based upon a survey of leading adaptation policy makers in 27 European countries, we show that there are signs of adaptation becoming a policy field in 15 countries. Furthermore, we find that even though institutional change, coupled with increasing public attention and pressure on governments to react to climate change, has helped drive the emergence of adaptation as a policy field, it would appear that it is the activities of elite policy makers and experts that have had the most influence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553-564
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number2
Early online date24 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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