Water Management

Tyndall Centre podcast features Adapt Lock-in researchers

At the end of July, Meghan Alexander and Tim Rayner appeared on the high-profile Tyndall Talks podcast to discuss the Adapt Lock-in project’s perspective on the increasingly evident ‘adaptation gap’.

The conversation covered the nature of lock-in dynamics, recent experience of overheating buildings and water scarcity in England, as well as the launch of a revised National Adaptation Programme in the summer of 2023. Readers can find it here:

Why is there an adaptation gap? – Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research

Lisanne Groen interviewed for GreenDeal-NET

Adapt Lock-in project researcher Lisanne Groen was interviewed in May as part of a new podcast series focusing on aspects of the EU’s European Green Deal, being produced by the GreenDeal-NET network. In the podcast, entitled Adapt or bust? Managing the impacts of climate change, she discussed findings from the Adapt Lock-in project. You can find the recording here.

Webinar on ‘Explaining the Adaptation Gap in the UK’

On May 25th 2022, Adapt Lock-in project researchers Meghan Alexander and Tim Rayner (University of East Anglia) gave a presentation ‘Explaining the adaptation gap in the UK – the hidden story of policy lock-ins’, under the auspices of the UK Climate Resilience Programme Webinar Series 2021-2022,

Noting how the continuing and commonly observed ‘adaptation gap’ may be symptomatic of hidden path dependencies and self-reinforcing ‘lock-in’ dynamics that work to preserve current systems, the presentation sought to show how uncovering of these hidden dynamics is vital to the ‘unlocking’ of opportunities for change that can accelerate adaptation action.

Focusing on England, the presentation examined the often interacting political, institutional, behavioral and infrastructural forces that create and maintain lock-in dynamics in a number of ‘problem domains’ – including coastal adaptation, water scarcity, biodiversity, forestry, heatwave adaptation and mental health under extreme events. Based on the project’s empirical research, some key lock-in dynamics currently hindering adaptation were described. The presentation demonstrated how, with the help of causal loop diagrams, distinct and overlapping lock-in dynamics operating within and between these problem areas can be visualised. In conclusion, reflections were offered on the implications for targeting interventions and designing ‘unlocking strategies’ to help close the adaptation gap.

A response was provided by Tom Handysides, at the time the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) government official leading on climate change adaptation and resilience policy development.

The webinar was recorded and is available HERE; alternatively, slides of the presentation are available HERE.

Variations on this presentation were subsequently given to DEFRA in September, and to the Independent group of the Local Government Association in October 2022

Re-examining policy stability in climate adaptation through a lock-in perspective


By Lisanne Groen, Meghan Alexander, Julie P. King, Nicolas W. Jager & Dave Huitema


Responding to current and future climate change demands urgent, transformative adaptation, yet in many policy systems inaction continues to prevail. This paper examines apparent resistance to policy change and the persistence of business-as-usual through a ‘lock-in perspective’, which means that attention is paid to how reinforcing mechanisms drive stabilisation and resistance in policy systems. Offering a fresh synthesis of known lock-in mechanisms in the literature, this paper explores the role of those mechanisms in two empirical cases of coastal adaptation: England (U.K.) and Schleswig-Holstein (Germany). While several known lock-mechanisms are observable, some are newly identified in this adaptation context. We offer a critical reflection on the added value of the lock-in perspective for understanding policy stability. In turn, the identification of self- and mutually reinforcing mechanisms provides a much-needed foundation for targeted policy interventions and efforts to ‘unlock’ climate adaptation pathways.

Download the paper HERE

To cite this article: Lisanne Groen, Meghan Alexander, Julie P. King, Nicolas W. Jager & Dave Huitema (2022): Re-examining policy stability in climate adaptation through a lock-in perspective, Journal of European Public Policy, DOI: 10.1080/13501763.2022.2064535