The emergence of relationality in governance of climate change adaptation

Palgrave Macmillan Cham
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The Palgrave Handbook of Climate Resilient Societies, 2020, pp. 1-33
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This chapter presents the emergence of relationality as an individual and collective capacity that has the potential to enable transformative adaptation to meet future climate challenges. Given that people create the social systems that influence their lives, the capacity for adaptation to climate change may be viewed as both an individual attribute constructed through social learning and knowledge exchange and a fundamental component of an enabling environment of social institutions. Governance of climate adaptation, therefore, requires a deeper consideration of the moral and ethical motivation and behavior of participants. The concept of relationality may be operationalized in governance as capacity building through transformative dialogue processes within and among stakeholders designed to generate relational responsibility. Five governance approaches are briefly examined for their potential to facilitate the emergence of relationality including (i) polycentric (ii) middle-out, (iii) collaborative, (iv) transformational, and (v) experimental governance. Key attributes of these processes are synthesized into a relational governance model. Together, these concepts are used to examine two case studies from New South Wales (NSW) Australia that illustrate that relationality can be enabled and expressed in existing forms of governance. This is the case when government is prepared to experiment and improvise adaptation practices across scales and contexts and embrace the norms, values, relations, ways of thinking, paradigms, and mental models that a diversity of actors can collectively bring to bear on a complex problem. These kinds of approaches need to become normalized across formal and informal adaptation governance.
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