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Yates, JS. The scalar politics of governing adaptation to climate change in Nepal. Global Causeway working paper

Yates, JS. The scalar politics of governing adaptation to climate change in Nepal. Global Causeway working paper

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Published by Julian Yates
The paper addresses the politics of scale associated with adaptation to climate change in Nepal, focussing on rural livelihoods.

A later version of the paper was published in the journal Global Environmental Change:
Yates, J. S. (2012). Uneven Interventions and the scalar politics of governing livelihood adaptation in rural Nepal. Global Environmental Change, 22(2), 537-546. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.01.007
The paper addresses the politics of scale associated with adaptation to climate change in Nepal, focussing on rural livelihoods.

A later version of the paper was published in the journal Global Environmental Change:
Yates, J. S. (2012). Uneven Interventions and the scalar politics of governing livelihood adaptation in rural Nepal. Global Environmental Change, 22(2), 537-546. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.01.007

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Published by: Julian Yates on Jul 14, 2014
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Working Paper Series 2010-3
Institutional Complexity in Governing the Scalar Politics of Adaptation to Climate Change in Rural Nepal
Julian S. Yates
(December 2010)
This is an early draft of a paper published in
Global Environmental Change
: Yates, J. S. (2012). Uneven Interventions and the scalar politics of governing livelihood adaptation in rural Nepal.
Global Environmental Change, 22
(2), 537-546. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.01.007
About Global Causeway
Global Causeway is an international initiative that builds bridges between development projects and  practitioners working to empower marginalised individuals, groups, and communities. The Global Causeway initiative is a coalition of people and organisations that envision a more equal global system based on equal access to decision-making. www.globalcauseway.org | causeway@globalcauseway.org  26 Church Hill, Stretton on Dunsmore, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV23 9NA, UK
 
 
Institutional Complexity in Governing the Scalar Politics of Adaptation to Climate Change in Rural Nepal
By
Julian S. Yates
 Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, 1984 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z2. Canada. Phone: 1 (604) 822-2663 Fax: 1 (604) 822-6150  julian.yates@geog.ubc.ca
Abstract:
 Accounts that address the governance of adaptation are increasingly exploring the ways in which the institutional context can both enable and constrain adaptive capacity. This  paper contributes to such a growing field by providing empirical evidence derived from  participatory field research, which was carried out in the districts of Chitwan and  Nawalparasi in Nepal during the spring of 2010. The results support previous arguments that emphasise the need to address the multi-scalar context of adaptation as a governance issue associated with individual and collective deliberative action (or inaction). Institution analysis identifies the ways in which networks of powerful and well-connected key players are able to control adaptation projects, flows of knowledge and information, and the ways in which local institutions and organisations respond to livelihood needs. This control is under-pinned by a scalar politics that constructs and reproduces particular local adaptation needs at multiple governance scales at once. Many existing tools and frameworks for assessing the institutional elements of adaptation are unable to grapple with these factors systematically. Thus, the  paper concludes with a call for further attention to forms of scalar politics in the governance of adaptation so that we might be able to more effectively theorise up from local complexity without glossing over inherent power relations and institutional constraints.
Keywords:
 Adaptation, institutions, governance, power, networks, scalar politics, livelihoods, Nepal.
 
Governing adaptation Nepal Julian S. Yates GCWP: 2010-3 (December) 1
 
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Introduction: Uncertainty in adaptive capacity
Exploring adaptation to climate change has been described as a “science of explaining how social and natural systems learn through experimentation” (Adger, 2006, p. 269). However, this “science of adaptation” has become characterised by the same “promise of prediction” that underpins the inherent uncertainty of climate projections (Demeritt, 2001). Uncertainty in adaptive capacity stems from uncertain climate models, unreliable aggregate measurements of adaptive capacity, the unknown effects of adaptive practices, the inability to  predict the ways in which adaptive capacity is transformed into adaptive action, and contested underlying theories of behaviour, politics, and risk (Adger et al., 2003; Adger and Vincent, 2005; Ensor and Berger, 2009). In this paper, I call attention to such uncertainty by pointing to our current inability to grapple with the complexity of the institutional arrangements that  both enable and constrain adaptation. Current frameworks for understanding the role of institutions in adaptation aggregate local complexity into regional and global models, which quantify and map vulnerability for comparative purposes. This approach places vulnerability and adaptation within public policy debates around climate change, whereby “climate change impacts are a threat to nation states…This framing crowds out, subverts and constrains framing in terms of human-well  being” (Adger, 2010). Demand for such an approach has been stimulated by supposed policy relevance, but Barnett et al. (2008) argue that these frameworks cannot be relied upon to communicate complexities, and should not be used for the comparison of vulnerability as a context-specific problem. Engle and Lemos’ (2010) attempt at quantification, for example, fails to adhere to the complex web of qualitative relations that they argue characterises the adaptive capacity of water governance institutions in Brazil. Although some have tried to overcome such limitations through the use of participatory methods (Fazey et al., 2010), frameworks such as Gupta et al.’s (2010) “adaptive capacity wheel” subjectively measure the

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