Strategic cooperation for transnational adaptation: lessons from the economics of climate change mitigation

  • Matteo RoggeroEmail author
  • Leonhard Kähler
  • Achim Hagen
Original Paper


The literature on climate adaptation has so far conceptualized it as a domestic issue, to be governed somewhere between the local and the national scale. By contrast, scholars have shown little interest in exploring the case of cross-boundary adaptation spillovers, where adaptation by one country affects other countries. Two decades of the economic literature on climate mitigation may contribute to bridge this research gap because the problem structure of climate mitigation resembles that of adaptation with cross-boundary spillovers. With this in mind, we ask the following research question: Are there lessons to be learned by applying a mitigation perspective to the governance of adaptation with cross-boundary spillovers? After reviewing the relevant adaptation and mitigation literature, the paper applies mitigation insights to an adaptation case with cross-boundary spillovers: climate change-induced eutrophication in the Baltic Sea. Insights on coalition structures, side-payments, issue-linkage, and trade sanctions provide novel perspectives on the governance structures in place. To improve cooperation on providing adaptation as a public good, smaller regional governance arrangements could be more effective, European subsidies for pollution control might be redirected, and progress on eutrophication could be made a precondition for cooperation on other areas. These perspectives depart both from the way the Baltic Sea eutrophication problem is addressed at present, and from the way public goods are addressed in the adaptation literature. They show that some lessons can indeed be learned, calling for further research.


Transnational adaptation Public goods Climate mitigation Governance arrangements Spillovers Baltic Sea 

List of abbreviations


Baltic Sea Region Strategy


European Union


Helsinki Commission


International Environmental Agreement


Water Framework Directive



We would like to thank our colleagues at the Resource Economics Group, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Adis Dzebo, Åsa Persson, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions on early versions of this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinBerlinGermany

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