Diffusion of Climate Change Adaptation Policies Among Local Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa: Conceptual Review

  • Issah Justice Musah-SuruguEmail author
  • Albert Ahenkan
  • Justice Nyigmah Bawole
  • Samuel Antwi Darkwah
Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


Many studies have confirmed the diffusion of climate change adaptation mainstreaming related policies and innovations across local governments (LGs). However, it is not clear under what conditions these policies get transferred, implemented or subsequently abandoned, especially in developing countries where LGs’ capacity to mainstream adaptation barely exist. Based on retrospective literature analysis, this article adduces theoretical and empirical evidence to analyze the factors likely to influence the mainstreaming of adaptation into local governance in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The outcome of the article is expected to help policy practitioners and academics to comprehend the preconditions that enhance or frustrate the adoption of adaptation policy innovations across LGs in SSA where adaptation remains critical developmental concerns. The preponderance of literature suggests that multiple factors, including those, outside the control of LGs affect their capacity and urgency to adopt adaptation policies. The chapter concludes that it is worthwhile to adopt multiple diffusion perfectives that reflect the complex web of factors conspicuously affecting the transfer of climate policy innovations at the micro level to explain the adoption of adaptation policies. The chapter argues that, by doing so, one is able to portray the nature of climate change policy diffusion in local governance in a more sophisticated, comprehensive and logical manner. The chapter therefore makes useful contributions to the emerging field of climate policy and provides useful lessons for practitioners on the factors that influence the adoption of adaptation policies.


Diffusion Climate change Policy Mainstreaming Local government 


  1. Abdulai, A.-G. (2012). State elites and the politics of regional inequality in Ghana (Doctoral thesis). University of Manchester.Google Scholar
  2. Adelle, C., & Russel, D. (2013). Climate policy integration: A case of déjà vu? Environmental Policy and Governance, 23(1), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adu-Boateng, A. (2015). Barriers to climate change policy responses for urban areas: A study of Tamale Metropolitan Assembly, Ghana. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 13, 49–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Agrawal, A. (2008). The role of local institutions in adaptation to climate change. Retrieved February 21, 2017 from
  5. Amankwah-Amoah, J., & Sarpong, D. (2016). Historical pathways to a green economy: The evolution and scaling-up of solar PV in Ghana, 1980–2010. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 102, 90–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aubert, B. A., & Hamel, G. (2001). Adoption of smart cards in the medical sector:: the Canadian experience. Social Science & Medicine, 53(7), 879–894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Aylett, A. (2015). Institutionalizing the urban governance of climate change adaptation: Results of an international survey. Urban Climate, 14, 4–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baldus, R., Kibonde, B., Siege, L. (2003). Seeking conservation partnerships in the Selous game reserve, Tanzania. Parks, 13(1), 50–61.Google Scholar
  9. Bawole, J. N. (2017). Pro-poor decentralization in Ghana: Exploring the facilitators and the limitations. Administrative Theory & Praxis, 39(2), 122–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berry, F., & Berry, W. (1990). State lottery adoptions as policy innovations: An event history analysis. American Political Science Review, 84(2), 395–415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Berry, F. S., & Berry, W. D. (1992). Tax innovation in the states: Capitalizing on political opportunity. American Journal of Political Science, 715–742.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Betsill, M. M., & Bulkeley, H. (2004). Transnational networks and global environmental governance: The cities for climate protection program. International Studies Quarterly, 48(2), 471–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bulkeley, H. (2010). Cities and the governing of climate change. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Bulkeley, H., & Betsill, M. M. (2013). Revisiting the urban politics of climate change. Environmental Politics, 22, 136–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Carter, N., & Jacobs, M. (2014). Explaining radical policy change: The case of climate change and energy policy under the British labour government 2006–10. Public Administration, 92(1), 125–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Coleman, J. S. (2000). Social capital in the creation of human capital. In Knowledge and social capital (pp. 17-41).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. de Oliveira, J. A. P. (2009). The implementation of climate change related policies at the subnational level: An analysis of three countries. Habitat International, 33(3), 253–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Denis, J. L., Hébert, Y., Langley, A., Lozeau, D., & Trottier, L. H. (2002). Explaining diffusion patterns for complex health care innovations. Health care management review, 27(3), 60–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dessai, S., & Hulme, M. (2004). Does climate adaptation policy need probabilities?. Climate policy, 4(2), 107–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dirksen, C. D., Ament, A. H., & Go, P. M. (1996). Diffusion of six surgical endoscopic procedures in the Netherlands. Stimulating and restraining factors. Health policy, 37(2), 91–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dodman, D., & Mitlin, D. (2013). Challenges for community-based adaptation: Discovering the potential for transformation. Journal of International Development, 25(5), 640–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Downs, A. (1972). The issue-attention cycle and the political economy of improving our environment. The political economy of environmental control (pp. 9–34). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  23. Elazar, D. J. (1972). American federalism: A view from the states. Crowell.Google Scholar
  24. Elster, J. (1986). Rational choice. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  25. Fennell, M. L., & Warnecke, R. B. (1988). The diffusion of medical innovations: An applied network analysis. New York: Plenum.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gray, V. (1973). Innovation in the states: A diffusion study. American Political Science Review, 67(04), 1174–1185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Grilli, R., & Lomas, J. (1994). Evaluating the message: The relationship between compliance rate and the subject of a practice guideline. Medical care, 202–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Goldman, M. (2003). Partitioned nature, privileged knowledge: Community‐based conservation in Tanzania. Development and change, 34(5), 833–862.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. IPCC (2014). Summary for policy makers. Climate change: synthesis report. Retrieved February 21, 2017 from
  30. ICLEI. (2002). What is the cities for climate protection campaign (CCP)?
  31. Jibao, S., & Prichard, W. (2016). Rebuilding local government finances after conflict: Lessons from a property tax reform programme in post-conflict Sierra Leone. The Journal of Development Studies, 1–17.Google Scholar
  32. Koppenjan, J. F. M., & Klijn, E. H. (2004). Managing uncertainties in networks: A network approach to problem solving and decision making. Psychology Press. Google Scholar
  33. Lindblom, C. E. (1959). The science of “muddling through”. Public Administration Review, 79–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Massey, E., Biesbroek, R., Huitema, D., & Jordan, A. (2014). Climate policy innovation: The adoption and diffusion of adaptation policies across Europe. Global Environmental Change, 29, 434–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marshall, J. G. (1990). Diffusion of innovation theory and end-user searching. Library and Information Science Research, 6(1), 55–69.Google Scholar
  36. Mohr, L. B. (1969). Determinants of innovation in organizations. American Political Science Review, 63(01), 111–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nelson, F., & Agrawal, A. (2008). Patronage or participation? Community-based natural resource management reform in sub-Saharan Africa. Development and Change, 39(4), 557–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. North, D. (1990). Institutions, economic theory and economic performance. Institutions, institutional change and economic performance. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Obradovich, N., & Zimmerman, B. (2016). African voters indicate lack of support for climate change policies. Environmental Science & Policy, 66, 292–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Olwig, M. F. (2012). Multi-sited resilience: The mutual construction of “local” and “global” understandings and practices of adaptation and innovation. Applied Geography, 33, 112–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ostrom, E. (2007). Institutional rational choice: An assessment of the institutional analysis and development framework. Retrieved February 20, 2017 from
  42. Oteman, M., Wiering, M., & Helderman, J. K. (2014). The institutional space of community initiatives for renewable energy: A comparative case study of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. Energy, sustainability and society, 4(1), 11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pasquini, L., Cowling, R. M., & Ziervogel, G. (2013). Facing the heat: Barriers to mainstreaming climate change adaptation in local government in the Western Cape Province, South Africa. Habitat International, 40, 225–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Porter, J. J., Demeritt, D., & Dessai, S. (2015). The right stuff? Informing adaptation to climate change in British local government. Global Environmental Change, 35, 411–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Powell, W. W. & DiMaggio, P. J. (Eds.). (2012). The new institutionalism in organizational analysis. University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  46. Ribot, J. C. (2003). Democratic decentralization of natural resources. Beyond Structural Adjustment The Institutional Context of African Development (pp. 159–182). US: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Roberts, D. (2010). Prioritizing climate change adaptation and local level resilience in Durban, South Africa. Environment and Urbanization, 22(2), 397–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rogers, E. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  49. Rootes, C., Zito, A., & Barry, J. (2012). Climate change, national politics and grassroots action: An introduction. Environmental Politics, 21(5), 677–690.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ryan, D. (2015). From commitment to action: A literature review on climate policy implementation at city level. Climatic Change, 131(4), 519–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Samuels, D. (2000). Reinventing local government? Municipalities and intergovernmental relations in democratic Brazil. Democratic Brazil: actors, institutions, and processes, 77–100.Google Scholar
  52. Schäfer, M. S., Ivanova, A., & Schmidt, A. (2014). What drives media attention for climate change? Explaining issue attention in Australian, German and Indian print media from 1996 to 2010. International Communication Gazette, 76(2), 152–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shipan, C. R., & Volden, C. (2008). The mechanisms of policy diffusion. American journal of political science, 52(4), 840–857.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Smith, J. B., & Hitz, S. (2002). Estimating global impacts from climate change: Background paper for the OECD. WPGSP project “Benefits of climate policy”, Stratus Consulting Inc., Boulder (CO).Google Scholar
  55. Smith, B., Brown, D. & Dodman, D. (2014). Reconfiguring urban adaptation finance. IIED Working Paper.Google Scholar
  56. Stadelmann, M., & Castro, P. (2014). Climate policy innovation in the South-Domestic and international determinants of renewable energy policies in developing and emerging countries. Global Environmental Change, 29, 413–423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Tanner, T., & Allouche, J. (2011). Towards a new political economy of climate change and development. IDS Bulletin, 42(3), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Vachon, S., & Menz, F. C. (2006). The role of social, political, and economic interests in promoting state green electricity policies. Environmental Science & Policy, 9(7–8), 652–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Walker, J. L. (1969). The diffusion of innovations among the American states. American Political Science Review, 63(03), 880–899.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wang, R. (2012). Leaders, followers, and laggards: Adoption of the US conference of mayors climate protection agreement in California. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 30(6), 1116–1128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Weisser, F., Bollig, M., Doevenspeck, M., & Müller-Mahn, D. (2014). Translating the ‘adaptation to climate change’paradigm: The politics of a travelling idea in Africa. The Geographical Journal, 180(2), 111–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wilson, A. L., Ramamurthy, K., & Nystrom, P. C. (1999). A multi-attribute measure for innovation adoption: The context of imaging technology. IEEE transactions on engineering management, 46(3), 311–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wood, A. (2015). The politics of policy circulation: Unpacking the relationship between South African and South American cities in the adoption of bus rapid transit. Antipode, 47(4), 1062–1079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Yeboah-Assiamah, E., Muller, K., & Domfeh, K. A. (2017). Institutional assessment in natural resource governance: A conceptual overview. Forest Policy and Economics, 74, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zahran, S., Brody, S., Vedlitz, A., Grover, H., & Miller, C. (2008). Vulnerability and capacity: Explaining local commitment to climate-change policy. Environ Planning C, Government Policy, 26(3), 544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Issah Justice Musah-Surugu
    • 1
    Email author
  • Albert Ahenkan
    • 1
  • Justice Nyigmah Bawole
    • 1
  • Samuel Antwi Darkwah
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Public Administration and Health Services ManagementUniversity of Ghana Business SchoolLegonGhana
  2. 2.Faculty of Regional Development and International StudiesMendel University in BrnoBrnoCzech Republic

Personalised recommendations