There are many challenges to policy integration in the context of climate change adaptation (see Fig. 1), including the lack of a normative trend towards integration (Jordan and Lenschow 2010); the need to improve the understanding of the concept of integration itself for climate adaptation (Burley et al. 2011); a lack of synergy between sectors and understanding of trade-offs across sectors (Eakin et al. 2009; Burley et al. 2011); the need to improve the understanding of policy interplays, inter-linkages, overlaps and interconnectedness (Oberthür and Gehring 2006); addressing sectoral concerns more strategically (Nilsson and Nilsson 2005); and better coordination across sectors to avoid maladaptation (Barnett and O’neill 2010). The approach and methods selected from the outset of the project attempted to address these challenges to policy integration for climate change adaptation. However, it is important to note that while the research team developed cross-sectoral adaptation options for human settlements in SEQ in collaboration with stakeholders, subsequent on the ground uptake and implementation of these options did not fall within the remit of this project. Despite this being the ultimate long-term aim of SEQCARI and positive feedback from stakeholders that project outputs will be used to inform their work, the extent to which and time frame for the uptake to occur and for practical evidence of benefits associated with their implementation to become apparent is uncertain. Yet, drawing on the insights from the process of developing cross-sectoral adaptation options in a collaborative manner, we devise a suggested approach for the implementation of cross-sectoral and integrated climate change adaptation policies.
The development of cross-sectoral adaptation options in collaboration with stakeholders followed the conceptualisation of learning-by-doing and doing-by-learning proposed by Loorbach and Rotmans (2006:203) where the first ‘concerns the development of theoretical knowledge from practice’ and the second ‘is the development of practical knowledge from theory’. From the human settlements research perspective, learning-by-doing was pursued by engaging stakeholders representing all sectors and various scales (local, regional and state) from the outset of and throughout the project. Through this level and breadth of stakeholder engagement, the research team was able to integrate the practice/corporate/agency knowledge across sectors when formulating and refining adaptation options. It also ensured the acknowledgement of existing policies promoting adaptation which were already adopted by the involved agencies. For example, one of the proposed cross-sectoral adaptation options refers to the Integration of Post-Disaster Recovery in Pre-Disaster Planning (see Ts3). In this case, stakeholders suggested that this adaptation option was already being considered to some extent in some of the local government disaster recovery plans as well as through the betterment notion included in the guidelines for disaster relief and recovery arrangements. However, they recognised that the idea of betterment was only recent and mainly restricted to infrastructure and particularly that much more attention needed to be given to improve community consultation and participation. They also stressed that this option might be difficult to communicate to the community because of its anticipatory and long-term nature and would therefore require significant community engagement and participation. These considerations elicited by stakeholders were then incorporated by the research team across a range of adaptation options, including the ones related to Managing the (Urban) Environment and Risk Communication.
In parallel, doing-by-learning was carried out by the research team by reframing adaptation options proposed in the literature to improve their capacity of being adopted and implemented in a pragmatic way based on stakeholders’ feedback. An example that illustrates how this happened is the option concerning Planned Retreat which is widely accepted, albeit highly contested, as one of the adaptation alternatives to coastal areas in response to sea-level rise (McGranahan et al. 2007; Titus et al. 2009). Not surprisingly, this option displayed the greatest variation in assessment ratings amongst stakeholders perhaps due to mixed understanding about its nature, needs and effects. For example, stakeholders representing the development industry emphasised that if this option was introduced it should be at the discretion of informed property owners and occur as assets are retired, rather than at a set date. Additionally, they highlighted that incentives or compensation (possibly funded by governments) should be provided to affected landowners. Furthermore, stakeholders representing local governments highlighted that this option would require an advance by state government with local government support in solving the matter associated with ‘injurious affection’ in the current planning legislation. This matter was seen as a major stumbling block to the successful implementation of not only planned retreat but also other adaptation options because it opens up litigation potential against local governments. As a result, the research team ensured that options affected by these concerns were refined to incorporate actions that specifically focused on phasing the implementation of planned retreat while considering its social impact, potential funding alternatives and different implementation mechanisms as well as legislative barriers.
Key insights to cross-sectoral integration for climate adaptation
In order to generate key insights that can inform cross-sectoral integration for climate adaptation, we now investigate how the four main features of the human settlements research approach were conducive to overcome the identified challenges to policy integration outlined earlier (see Fig. 1). However, it is important to note that these are not stand-alone, but rather interdependent challenges and therefore will be discussed jointly.
First, a major methodological strength of the study relates to the distinct sectoral perspectives on the issues and challenges inherent to climate adaptation from both the multi-disciplinary research team and the breadth of stakeholders involved. This enabled the development of sectoral and cross-sectoral adaptation policies and programmes through an iterative and interactive process of collaboration between stakeholders and the multi-disciplinary research team which was conducive to achieving policy aggregation and consistency (cf. Underdal 1980). It was through this iterative and interactive process that proposed adaptation policies and programmes were legitimised by stakeholders and therefore representative of an overall perspective for climate adaptation rather than sector-specific. Additionally, policy consistency was pursued through the creation of opportunities through facilitated workshops for stakeholders from multiple sectors and distinct levels of governance to interact and discuss their perspectives and issues pertinent to their sectors for climate adaptation at the local and regional level. These opportunities did not happen without the expected tension in reconciling individual and collective interests that often emerges in collaboration exercises that involve a range of sectors and stakeholders (Thomson and Perry 2006). During workshops, cross-sectoral conflicts relating to adaptation options and potentially leading to maladaptation were identified, and areas for future research and policy development were noted. For example, there was wide interest among stakeholders for greater community involvement in disaster risk reduction. However, emergency management personnel present at workshops cautioned that when community involvement in disaster risk reduction does not occur within established disaster management operations and arrangements, this could affect disaster management operations. Consistency between autonomous community-level actions during disaster response and recovery, and established disaster management operations was then noted as an area in need of greater attention by researchers and all stakeholders present at workshops. Using an adaptive management approach, efforts to address these identified areas of conflict across sectors may be monitored and altered over time.
Second, tension in reconciling individual and collective interests was managed by carefully selecting, involving and mixing stakeholders from a variety of sectors and governance levels to reduce the risk of over-representation and dominance of individual stakeholder groups. Moreover, the adoption of a hypothetical case study approach (see below) and use of scenario planning to guide the conduct of workshops allowed discussions to transcend current vested interests towards a more strategic and complementary position to support climate change adaptation. For example, in the second series of workshops, stakeholders were grouped in cross-sectoral teams to test adaptation options against plausible future scenarios and adaptation appraisal criteria. Group discussions were facilitated by research team members to ensure considerations from all sectors were heard, particularly to clarify roles and responsibilities different sectors, stakeholders and organisations have in their day-to-day operations that can create barriers and/or opportunities for climate change adaptation. Additionally, stakeholders had the opportunity to individually appraise proposed adaptation options anonymously and therefore express their own interests without being confronted by other participants. However, consideration was given to the limitations involved in stakeholder engagement which, if not considered, can raise false expectations in terms of the breadth of achieved stakeholder representation and/or inclusion (Few et al. 2007). Hence, the research team acknowledges that the inclusion of citizens and political leaders in the described process adds an additional layer of complexity that deserves further investigation.
Third, the adoption of a case study approach, which focused on specific coastal settlement types, assisted in the identification and investigation of sector-specific issues and policy needs for climate adaptation. It also provided scope for the discussion of linkages across sectors to avoid trade-offs between sectors, define strategic issues as well as enhance the ‘effectiveness’ (cf. Adger et al. 2005) of proposed adaptation policies and programmes. For example, one of the settlement types—canal estates—is surrounded by waterways which demand a close interlink between the sectors of urban planning and management, physical infrastructure and emergency management. Increasing population density in those areas, for instance, could add additional pressures on ageing stormwater systems and lead to higher flood levels which, in turn, would have a direct impact on evacuation routes. By focusing on specific geographical localities exemplified by settlement types, the project was aligned with a growing body of literature that indicates that climate change adaptation is context specific and the impacts need to be addressed at the local scale (Measham et al. 2011). Nevertheless, links between local- and regional-scale policies were not ignored as regional policies also influence how those local areas are managed. This is an important aspect relevant to policy integration as it can lead to inconsistencies across sectors and levels of governance (Underdal 1980; Portman 2011).
It is important to note that the selection of case studies was confronted with typical political, institutional, social and legal barriers given the limited focus on climate change adaptation in Australia to date, compounded by the absence of strong leadership on climate change adaptation from all levels of government nationally (Preston et al. 2011). Stakeholders expressed concerns relating to the political ramifications of any research outputs that were based on uncertain science and/or timelines beyond time frames that local governments have solid policy for, and that related to the context of broader, politically charged climate change debates. These potential ‘project stopping’ barriers were overcome through negotiated agreements with participating local authorities to undertake the research using a hypothetical case study approach. While such an approach could have potentially constrained independent research and analysis of individual specific cases, it provided a platform for more open discussion and debate among stakeholders by focusing on what should be done rather than what could be done in the current political climate. The project reference group also provided valuable input regarding identifying and addressing potential challenges and conflicts inherent in, and particular to, cross-sectoral policy development in the region.
Fourth, to ensure policies developed across the five sectors were consistent (cf. Underdal 1980), all adaptation policies and programmes generated were appraised against eleven criteria (see Ts2). This process informed the final selection and prioritisation of adaptation policies and programmes and reduced the risk of sectoral trade-offs, thereby also minimising the risk of maladaptation. The appraisal criteria were derived from a review of the literature on ‘best practice’ adaptation, and a combination of expert opinion from the research team and key stakeholders. By allowing input from key stakeholders and practitioners in the refinement of the appraisal criteria and development of adaptation policies and programmes, greater levels of transparency, accountability and trust were enabled. The high level of stakeholder involvement in the process promoted greater accountability and in turn ownership of outcome and potential adoption of adaptation policies and programmes.
In summary, there are three key insights that emanate from the experience provided by the human settlements approach which could inform climate change adaptation in other coastal areas. First, for climate adaptation policies to be integrated, a range of sectors needed to be involved in all stages of the integration process, that is, from the identification of key issues and challenges and throughout the formulation and assessment stages. This process needs to be interactive and iterative and should include a range of stakeholders representing different sectors and governance levels. Nevertheless, the human settlements cross-sectoral approach demanded a significant amount of effort and conciliation from participants as well as negotiations throughout the project within the research team and between the research team and stakeholders. The use of hypothetical case studies and scenario planning contributed to minimising interest disparities amongst stakeholders as well as overcoming project stopping barriers of institutional, political, legal and social nature. Second, the adopted case study approach allowed the development of adaptation policies and programmes addressing specificities of identified locations as well as the identification of synergies and trade-offs across sectors beyond the local scale. This approach also assisted in the mapping of interplays, inter-linkages, overlaps and interconnectedness across and between existing policies by clearly identifying cascading effects or implications one sectoral policy might have on other sectors. This was important to guide the development of proposed sector-specific and cross-sectoral adaptation policies and programmes, particularly from a more strategic and long-term perspective. Third, the development of appraisal criteria to assess adaptation policies and programmes further contributed to minimising policy trade-offs across sectors, although some trade-offs may not be known until policies are fully implemented and feedback from social and ecological systems are realised. Additionally, while the criteria may not totally prevent maladaptation from occurring due to other external pressures, such as political interests, it comprised a useful tool to identify adaptation options that require caution in their conceptualisation and implementation. On that note, it is also important to stress the role that adaptive management approaches play in ensuring cross-sectoral integration and adaptation. In addition, iteration across sectors is essential to overcome previously identified challenges to policy integration.
Moving forward towards cross-sectoral adaptation
Overcoming the principal challenges for achieving successful cross-sectoral adaptation to climate change will require a concerted, continuous and integrated (joined-up) effort. To this end, the consolidation of various groupings of policies and programmes into adaptation themes can provide an insight into the implementation end of the adaptation process (see Ts3). Additionally, the proposed adaptation policies and programmes were framed in an adaptive management context (cf. Tompkins and Adger 2004) and derived through the consideration of a cyclic planning process that incorporates an adaptive management framework. This facilitates the ability to continuously review these options in the light of new and revised science and learnings. This cyclic approach (cf. Willows and Connell 2003) has meant that implementation issues have had to be considered and aspects of monitoring and evaluation addressed in terms of the implementation of the adaptation options.
Based on these insights, we argue that one possible pathway to improve cross-sectoral integration for climate change adaptation is by following consolidated adaptation themes which can be approached through five adaptation implementation phases, namely foundation phase, substantiation phase, mainstreaming phase, review phase and consolidation phase. The assignment of these eight adaptation themes into a proposed sequencing arrangement of five implementation phases provides further insight into the requirements for implementing potential strategies to address cross-sectoral adaptation of human settlements. The proposed arrangement and sequencing of the eight adaptation themes across the various adaptation implementation phases are illustrated in Fig. 3. Strong evidence has emerged, especially from stakeholder engagement supported by the literature (Measham et al. 2011; Preston et al. 2011), that well-informed leadership that is confident in the adaptation process is essential. For this reason, this suite of leadership programmes is foundational to the successful implementation of all other adaptation options. However, a concerted effort will have to be made to achieve these ends, and it will require a continual undertaking to address the churn that characterises the nature of leadership at institutional and community levels.
A further clear message from the stakeholder engagement process was the need to ensure continuity of effort, as it was repeatedly noted that there had to be continuity of support, capacity building and adaptation programmes to guarantee success, particularly in a cost-effective manner over longer time frames. In some cases, this could be achieved through sporadic initiatives ramped up as required, but in other instances, it is clear that this effort must be ongoing. A case-in-point is the adaptation themes related to capacity building through Training and Education, Managing the (Urban) Environment and Risk Communication. These adaptation themes, along with leadership, underlie the foundation and substantiation phases. By the mainstreaming phase, the relevant programmes of all the adaptation themes should have been initiated and should be operating in a coordinated and joined-up manner. The review phase highlights the overarching approach that imbeds an adaptive management framework into the implementation process. Hence, there are a number of adaptive management cycles operating throughout the human settlements adaptation options. In addition to the review phase, an extensive range of additional adaptive management measures have been built into each programme and associated actions. Subsequently, and subject to feedback and learnings from the review phase, the desired programmes in their modified (or unmodified) form proceed through to the consolidation phase. However, it is important to reemphasise an earlier acknowledgement that each location and circumstance is different (sometimes unique). Hence, not all individual programmes and actions need to or will be included in all adaptation themes for specific cases of implementation. That said, it is also important to note that some programmes can have a cross-sectoral application. Examples of cross-sectoral adaptation options that apply to all human settlements sectors include risk communication, information sharing, capacity building and training, public awareness and education, leadership development, post-disaster into pre-disaster planning, planned retreat, physical and social infrastructure management, and adaptive management.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; however, it is clear that this pathway will require improved collaboration across sectors and ongoing engagement of stakeholders from a range of sectors and levels of governance.