Climate change adaptation in coastal systems: Framing for adoption of innovative technologies

    Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


    In densely-populated coastal areas, balancing spatial interests is a challenge. Where space is scarce, policy-makers have to take into account demands for recreational, economic, and nature areas. Climate change-induced sea-level rise adds to this pre-existing complexity. If policy-makers intend to balance all of these demands, while at the same time adapting to climate change, innovation in coastal protection technologies is one way to go. Two coastal projects at the Dutch North Sea coast – the 2011 Sand Motor and the 2013 Hondsbossche Duinen projects – attempted to find an answer to this complex spatial planning challenge. In these projects, mega-nourishment schemes, i.e. large-scale sand depositions in front of or on the beach, presented as innovative technology, were constructed to improve spatial functions. The present paper explores how forms of meaning-making by actors involved in the policy processes have led to the implementation of these mega-nourishment schemes as answers to coastal safety and spatial planning challenges. Specifically, the paper studies aspects of policy framing in retrospective accounts of involved actors. For both cases, a set of actors who actively participated in the design and decision-making processes of the two projects were interviewed (Sand Motor: fourteen interviewees; Hondsbossche Duinen: eleven interviewees). Based on these in-depth accounts, an interpretive analysis distinguished different aspects of framing at work in the two cases. These aspects of policy framing include the policy substance of the present frames, scale characteristics of those frames, characteristics of framing interactions, and characteristics of the framing performers. The specific expressions of these framing aspects were compared as contextually unique ways of dealing with the problem of protecting coastal areas against sea-level rise while taking into account complex spatial demands. Three main findings with regard to framing are distilled from the two cases. First, both projects benefitted from the presupposed multifunctionality of mega-nourishments, albeit in different ways. Multifunctionality allows for tailor-made framing interactions, because different functions may be highlighted, depending on the receiver of the message. The advantage of the multifunctionality characteristic also translates into the degree of transcendence of scale frames in both projects. Designing a mega-nourishment allows thinking outside the location of the sand deposition. Furthermore, a broad range of actors was included in the decision-making process. Second, with regard to the framing interactions, the experience of urgency distinguishes the experimental Sand Motor case from the Hondsbossche Duinen case, which was non-experimental. In the Hondsbossche Duinen case, the livelihoods at stake made for more conflict in the process of finding suitable project design. Third, the cases differ in the role of individual actors as interpretive policy entrepreneurs. The provincial government in charge of the Sand Motor project was capable of argumentatively convincing other actors to join the epistemic community. Instead, there was not such a clear argumentative protagonist in the Hondsbossche Duinen case. As such, the cases in this papers are useful examples for both scholars and practitioners for how framing influences the adoption of innovative climate change adaptation technologies.
    Period6 Feb 2018
    Event titleInternational Conference Climate Change & Water 2018: Diversity of local responses to the impacts of climate change on water
    Event typeConference
    LocationTours, FranceShow on map
    Degree of RecognitionInternational


    • Coastal governance
    • Interpretive policy analysis
    • Framing
    • Comparison
    • The Netherlands