Getting Buy-In for Climate Change Adaptation Through Urban Planning: Climate Change Communication as a Multi-way Process

Mabon, Leslie and Shih, Wan-Yu (2017). Getting Buy-In for Climate Change Adaptation Through Urban Planning: Climate Change Communication as a Multi-way Process. In: Leal, W.; Azeiteiro, U.; Manolas, E. and Azul, A. M. eds. Handbook of Climate Change Communication: Vol. 1. Climate Change Management. Cham: Springer, pp. 61–75.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69838-0_4

Abstract

This chapter evaluates the role of communication in building support for climate change adaptation through urban spatial planning. We take Durban in South Africa as our case study, a city with significant vulnerability to climate change which is widely regarded as having successfully implemented climate adaptation initiatives through spatial planning, despite a challenging socio-economic context. In particular, we aim to assess the role of communication in initiating and sustaining Durban’s climate adaptation initiatives, and evaluate wider lessons and challenges for the role of communication in climate change action with reference to social theory on science and environmental governance. We pay particular attention to the role of communication at the personal, institutional and municipal scale in eThekwini Municipality’s Municipal Climate Protection Programme, focusing on how framing and argumentation around the role the city’s open space system may support progress towards ecosystem-based adaptation. Drawing on a narrative literature review and associated content analysis of planning documentation and peer-reviewed literature, we argue that climate adaptation initiatives which carry multiple rationales in addition to the scientific basis for action stand the greatest chance of reaching implementation. We argue this is important because: (a) the complexity of governance structures mean many actors with different priorities and value positions must be engaged to enact policy; and (b) the short-term nature of political attention necessitates rationales that sustain their appeal to a broad range of viewpoints over time. We caution, however, that there is a need for ongoing critical reflection as to the grounds on which the ‘success’ of a climate adaptation intervention can be claimed, and that care must be taken to ensure a focus on framing and getting buy-in does not deflect attention away from debating the underlying causes of vulnerability.

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