Climate adaptation policy lock-ins

Case studies

The project examines policy lock-in dynamics in six problem domains, which are broadly related to three core sectors (water, nature conservation and health). These include:

Each of these represent a specific risk or issue that will be exacerbated by future climate change. These are often referred to as ‘wicked problems’, characterised by complexity (non-linearity, multi-scale dynamics and problem interconnectivity) and significant uncertainty, which create dilemmas for decision-makers. There is a growing consensus that addressing problems of this nature will require significant transformations of governance arrangements, policy systems and practices, which are likely to transcend established policy domains and sectors, involve multiple centres of decision-making and a broader range of actors. 

For this reason, Adapt Lock-in uses the term ‘problem domain’, as an inclusive term, referring to the arrangement of actors, rules, resources and discourses associated with a collective issue. This is arguably a more useful unit of analysis for the study of wicked problems, which typically straddle more than one sector of public policy, may fall through the gaps of existing structures, or suffer from a lack of problem-ownership. As a unit of analysis, the ‘problem domain’ forces a problem-led, as opposed to policy-led, approach to empirical research and promotes a systems perspective.