15 December 2017

Worldwide policy not yet ready for climate change

The conclusion of a group of researchers including some from Utrecht University is that policy worldwide is insufficiently adapted to climate change. As a result, there is a very real risk that we are not resilient enough to face climate risks. The researchers published their findings in the open-access journal Regional Environmental Change.

Adaptation to a changing climate is both necessary and unavoidable. This means that climate change needs to be mainstreamed in existing policy, for example for urban planning, transport and agriculture. Researchers from Utrecht University, the Stockholm Environment Institute, Lund University and Wageningen University & Research analysed what evidence there is that this is happening, and to what extent. Their conclusion is that mainstreaming is not yet as effective as they had hoped, and that in consequence, climate risks are insufficiently covered.

Verticaal bos
Bosco Verticale in Milan: greening urban spaces creates synergy.


Lead author of the publication Professor Hens Runhaar of Utrecht University explains: “The literature shows that the most efficient way of achieving sustainable change is to mainstream climate adaptation in existing policies. This creates synergy; for instance greening urban spaces not only reduces the risk of pluvial flooding, but it also contributes to spatial quality and climate change mitigation.”

What works?                              

From their extensive literature review, the researchers conclude that on paper, mainstreaming policy is already taking place, but that it seldom results in concrete action. The drivers behind mainstreaming include political patronage, cooperation with private actors and the presence of policy entrepreneurs. Barriers include lack of money, information, guidance, cooperation and knowledge of climate adaptation. Only when these barriers have been overcome and the drivers can be better utilised, will there be a broader support base for policy to mitigate the effects of climate change.


Runhaar, H., Wilk, B., Persson, Å. et al. Reg Environ Change (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-017-1259-5