Legitimacy of urban climate change adaptation: a case in Helsinki

Johannes Klein*, Raine Mäntysalo, Sirkku Juhola

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


While there is general agreement on the necessity for local adaptation, there is a wide range of different understandings of what type of adaptation is seen as legitimate. It is often contested who should actively steer and take part in local adaptation, for which reasons and based on what kind of mandate, and with which methods. Planning theory can serve as a helpful reference point for examining the sources of legitimacy for adaptation in an urban context. From a planning perspective, adaptation is concerned with climate change as one out of many issues planning has to respond to. The layered co-existence of planning paradigms in practice suggests diverse, sometimes contradictory sources of legitimacy for urban planning and—as we claim here—also for climate change adaptation. This study examines the legitimacy of adaptation from a planning theoretical perspective in Helsinki, drawing on semi-structured interviews and social network analysis to show how adaptation is commonly understood from a rationalist perspective as an apolitical activity with local authorities’ experts designing and implementing adaptation. Nevertheless, some of the central actors understand adaptation as a communicative activity and a common deliberation of solutions. The co-occurrence of disparate paradigms results in ambiguous legitimacy that can impede the successful implementation of local climate change adaptation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-826
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Climate change adaptation
  • Helsinki
  • Legitimacy
  • Planning theory
  • Social network analysis


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