Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 1021–1033 | Cite as

Toward legitimate governance strategies for climate adaptation in the Netherlands: combining insights from a legal, planning, and network perspective

  • Arwin van Buuren
  • Peter Driessen
  • Geert Teisman
  • Marleen van Rijswick
Original Article


In general, the issue of climate change is characterized by uncertainty, complexity, and multifacetedness. In the Netherlands, climate change is in above highly controversial. These characteristics make it difficult to realize adaptation measures that are perceived as legitimate. In this article, we analyze the main difficulties and dilemmas with regard to the issue of legitimacy in the context of climate adaptation. We conceptualize legitimacy from a legal, a planning, and a network perspective and show how the concept of legitimacy evolves within these three perspectives. From a legal perspective, the focus is on the issues of good governance. From a planning perspective, the focus is on the flexibility, learning, and governance capacity. From a network perspective, issues of dialogue, involvement, and support are important. These perspectives bring in different criteria, which are not easy compatible. We describe and illustrate these legitimacy challenges using an in-depth study of the Dutch IJsseldelta Zuid case. From our case study, we conclude that, from a legitimacy perspective, the often acclaimed necessity to be adaptive and flexible is quite problematic. The same holds true for the plea to mainstream adaptation into other policy domains. In our case study, these strategies give rise to serious challenges in relation to good governance and consensus—two indispensable cornerstones of legitimacy.


Climate adaptation Governance strategies Legitimacy Legal perspective Planning perspective Network perspective 



This research was funded by the Dutch Climate Changes Spatial Planning and Knowledge for Climate (theme 7, Governance of Adaptation) research programs and was also partly conducted within the project “Resilient legal formats for hybrid institutions protecting public values in water management,” which has been supported by the Next Generation Infrastructures program. The authors would like to thank Prof. A. M. Hol (Utrecht University) for his valuable comments, the two anonymous reviewers, and the (guest) editor for their very helpful remarks on earlier drafts of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arwin van Buuren
    • 1
  • Peter Driessen
    • 1
  • Geert Teisman
    • 1
  • Marleen van Rijswick
    • 1
  1. 1.Erasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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