Climatic Change

, Volume 155, Issue 4, pp 621–637 | Cite as

Barriers and drivers to adaptation to climate change—a field study of ten French local authorities

  • Guillaume SimonetEmail author
  • Alexia Leseur


Local authorities are intensifying efforts to design climate policy that includes effective climate change adaptation. However, the translation of policy into effective actions that transform territories faces barriers, and is proving to be a true challenge. Through the findings of 2 years of field research (ABSTRACT-colurba project), based on the study of ten French local authorities, this paper discusses the main barriers that decision-makers are confronted with, and the drivers by which they may succeed or which could trigger more efficient actions at the local level. Once again, this study confirms that barriers are mainly reported at the resource, governance, and awareness levels. Thus, the reduction of subsidies from national government, the priority given to economic criteria and the lack of awareness of climate issues are among the main barriers. Potential and successful drivers are mainly reported at the organisational level. Indeed, the necessity to reorganise the way local public institutions are working to implement climate policy is highlighted as an important lever to overcome certain obstacles. We conclude that research on barriers and drivers to climate change adaptation is essential to better understand why efforts are so slow to take into consideration the obvious acceleration of the manifestations of climate change. But we also recommend focusing on the human factors involved into the decision-making processes, at the collective (organisational) as well as the individual (perception) level, to better relate the findings to stakeholders and to find ways to integrate them into action-research projects in order to accelerate an urgent transformation of urban systems into sustainable systems.



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire Interdisciplinaire Solidarités, Sociétés, Territoires (LISST-UMR 5193)Université de Toulouse Jean JaurèsToulouseFrance
  2. 2.Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE)ParisFrance

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