Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 15, Issue 6, pp 1065–1079 | Cite as

"Cool" governance of a "hot" climate issue: public and private responsibilities for the protection of vulnerable citizens against extreme heat

  • Heleen L. P. MeesEmail author
  • Peter P. J. Driessen
  • Hens A. C. Runhaar
Original Article


In cities in temperate climate zones, the elderly, disabled and socially deprived are most vulnerable to extreme heat, as witnessed by increased mortality rates during heat waves in Europe and North America. Many cities, however, lag behind in the protection of vulnerable citizens against heat stress, an issue gaining importance in the face of climate change, ongoing urbanization and an ageing population. This raises questions as to who bears responsibility for the protection of these vulnerable citizens. Should they protect themselves, or is this a collective responsibility? Which public and private organizations could take on this collective responsibility? This study explores potential governance arrangements between public and private actors by analysing the perceived responsibilities and their underlying considerations of public and private actors through two multi-stakeholder workshops and one focus group held in two Dutch cities. Furthermore, the study looks into what can be learned from ten foreign cities where a heat stress policy has been implemented, with respect to the concrete shaping of responsibilities and how trade-offs in considerations are dealt with. The research reveals that because of conflicting considerations there is disagreement as to who bears responsibility for the implementation of health care measures, and it shows how this might be resolved through differentiated approaches for an active outreach to vulnerable citizens. We conclude that "cool" governance suggests extensive public responsibilities throughout the policy process, but that policy implementation needs public–private networks tailored to these differentiated approaches.


Adaptation Climate change Heat waves Vulnerability Divisions of responsibilities Local governance 



This research is funded by the Dutch Knowledge for Climate Research Program (

Supplementary material

10113_2014_681_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (165 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 165 kb)
10113_2014_681_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (171 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 172 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heleen L. P. Mees
    • 1
    Email author
  • Peter P. J. Driessen
    • 1
  • Hens A. C. Runhaar
    • 1
  1. 1.Copernicus Institute of Sustainable DevelopmentUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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