ORA (Round 5) Understanding Climate adaptation policy lock-ins: A 3 x 3 approach

Lead Research Organisation: University of East Anglia
Department Name: Politics Philosophy Lang & Comms Studies


Adapting to worsening impacts of climate change is one of the biggest global challenges. Yet, limited action on the part of public authorities still prevails; institutions, infrastructures, technologies and societal behaviours appear resistant to change. Understanding this gap requires better knowledge of the way societies are governed, but the existing literature often overlooks this, going no further than describing 'barriers to change'. Better explaining what we term 'lock-ins' requires uncovering the dynamics that create and sustain them. That is the aim of this original and cross-disciplinary study. Taking an empirical, but theoretically reflective, approach, it examines three policy sectors central to climate adaptation - water management, health care, and biodiversity and nature conservation - in three countries: Germany, Netherlands and the UK. Although in principle all three are well equipped to deal with climate adaptation, each is subject to lock-in. The project will use a mixed methods approach to understand why lock-ins arise and persist in each instance, and will employ Qualitative Comparative Analysis to better understand the dynamics of lock-ins as they affect climate adaptation. It will confront observed (in)action with different approaches for explaining lock-ins, advance conceptual and empirical understanding of how lock-ins emerge and endure, and use the findings to provide informed recommendations for the design of more effective adaptation policies.

Planned Impact

See 'Academic Beneficiaries'


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Title Interview Protocol 
Description We have created an interview protocol for eliciting stakeholders' perceptions of lock-in dynamics. Upon completion of the project this will be made publicly available via the UK Data Service. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Interviews are proceeding using the protocol 
Title Interview transcripts 
Description In progress - interview transcripts will be deposited with the UK Data Service, alongside 'evidence directories' listing key documents that have been subject to analysis. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Data still being gathered 
Description Website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We have now established a project website, from which we intend to share key research outputs (e.g. summary reports, policy briefs and presentations) as well as blog posts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://adaptlockin.eu/