Panel 14: Climate change

Charlotte Maybom, University of Copenhagen, (chair)

Abstract: How international non-state actors’ depoliticized intervention practices repoliticize the emerging field of adaptation governance

International non-state actors, such as civil society organizations, private corporations, and multinational hybrid organizations, increasingly undertake the roles as forerunners in implementing global climate change adaptation policies. Scholars and practitioners tend to perceive non-state actors as “the good guys” expecting them to fill in governance gaps in the Global South by providing the regulation and services necessary for adaptation, and by representing and empowering local communities. However, little is known about how these “depoliticized” adaptation interventions may, in reality, validate existing global and national policy agendas on behalf of local agendas, or what consequences they may have to the socio-political dynamics in the local communities in which they are implemented. The main aim of this paper is to lay out the theoretical and conceptual framework for a fieldwork on the role of non-state actors’ adaptation interventions in rural Kenya. The fieldwork will be carried out in an area severely impacted by climate change, intense land competition, and changing land rights. The various adaptation initiatives undertaken by non-state actors thus take place in a context of historical and contemporary claims, contestations, and negotiations over land and rights. The recognition of the rights of certain groups can exclude other groups competing for access to land for adaptation, and create new social and political contracts. The paper takes outset in political ecology’s framing of the mainstream concept of adaptation as universalizing, depoliticizing, and technocratic, and in critical scholars’ argument that it sidesteps issues related to power, access, and inequality. The paper takes a step further than this critique by examining how international non-state actors and their intervention practices impact socio-political dynamics, structures and politics, and thereby contribute to repoliticizing the emerging field of adaptation governance.

Tuva Neraal Volden, University of Copenhagen,


My research explores interplays between climate change, adaptation and governance. Grounded in fieldwork in the Native Village of Selawik, Alaska, I examine what role residents wish for the state and federal government to play in adaptation. The majority of my informants emphasised community rather than government responsibility for adaptation. I unpack these narratives of self-reliance by exploring how informants appear to see climate change governance as part of a broader political context. Two analytical points support this overall claim. First, I apply notions of welfare as a governance tool (Pearson 2000; Povinelli 2011) to the arena of adaptation assistance. Informants frequently criticised government welfare when asked about adaptation support, suggesting that they imagine the two to be part of similar government-Indigenous relationships. Food stamps and other benefits were described as a government strategy to silence the community. Government adaptation assistance was seen to take a similar approach, focusing on superficial rather than long-term solutions. Second, I draw on the idea that ‘eventfulness’ can be used by governments to justify structural harm (Povinelli 2011). Climate change in Selawik is constant and gradual, rather than spectacular. The suffering it generates blends into everyday life and rarely evokes public outrage, allowing the government to ignore it. Selawik residents in turn expressed feelings of political neglect and limited influence. These two points, I propose, help explain informant emphases on self-reliance in adaptation. Why make strong calls for or rely on government assistance, if it can be used to exert external control, and if you do not believe the authorities care about or listen to you? In turn, this analysis gives rise to my argument that local perceptions of interlinkages between climate change, adaptation and governance should be understood as part of a broader political context. This has implications for policy.

Andrea Nightingale, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences,

Abstract: Frontiers of Climate Change: unruly landscapes of a future Himalaya

Attempts at governing ecological crises are just that: attempts. Life is far too unruly to quietly acquiesce to control and management raising uncomfortable questions about how to govern the new resource and territorial frontiers emerging from climate change. Not only are new lands being created by melting glaciers, catastrophic floods, and shifting temperature regimes, attempts at governing climate are creating new resources such as carbon and climate conservation areas. By starting from the unruliness and uncontrollability of life, this paper explores the continuous (re)configurations of humans and non-humans required to accomplish governing climate, in order to create new insights into the complex, often unpredictable political, social, cultural and ecological terrains that result. Drawing from scholars of science and political ecologists who have long pointed out that knowing is not somehow separate from the worlds we create, and feminist work on power and recognition, the paper looks at how climate change programs are caught up in the riotous, inadvertent contradictions of environmental governance.Action, imagination, naming, and everyday practices create lasting connections; they bring the world into being in a continuous and dynamic manner demanding that we develop a more than human ethics. Using a case study of Nepal, the paper works through the entanglements of forests, user-groups, geopolitics and efforts at responding to predictions of calamitous change to show how they are complicit in producing the dilemmas we face.