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Identifying and tracking key climate adaptation actors in the UK

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Susanne Lorenz, James J. Porter, Suraje Dessai

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2125-2138
Number of pages14
JournalRegional environmental change
Issue number7
Published1 Oct 2019

King's Authors


To understand how climate adaptation planning and decision-making will progress, a better understanding is needed as to which organisations are expected to take on key responsibilities. Methodological challenges have impeded efforts to identify and track adaptation actors beyond the coarse scale of nation states. Yet, for effective adaptation to succeed, who do national governments need to engage, support and encourage? Using the UK as a case study, we conducted a systematic review of official government documents on climate adaptation, between 2006 and 2015, to understand which organisations are identified as key to future adaptation efforts and tracked the extent to which these organisations changed over time. Our unique longitudinal dataset found a very large number of organisations (n = 568). These organisations varied in size (small-medium enterprises to large multinationals), type (public, private and not-for-profit), sector (e.g. water, energy, transport and health), scale (local, national and international), and roles and responsibilities (policymaking, decision-making, knowledge production, retail). Importantly, our findings reveal a mismatch between official government policies that repeatedly call on private organisations to drive adaptation, on the one hand, and a clear dominance of the public sector on the other hand. Yet, the capacity of organisations to fulfil the roles and responsibilities assigned to them, particularly in the public sector, is diminishing. Unless addressed, climate adaptation actions could be assigned to those either unable, or unwilling, to implement them.

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