Urban Climate Governance: Adaptive Capacity of Local Governance, a case study of Kathmandu, Nepal

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Adapting to changing climate is a challenge for cities around the world. The adaptive capacity of urban communities to climate change depends on economic, political, social, ecological, and institutional arrangements. The least developing countries struggle to enhance their capacity to adapt because of social inequalities, minimal scientific knowledge, low finance, and inadequate and poorly constructed infrastructures in cities. Much of the climate governance literature focused on cities with established adaptation planning processes. Multilevel governance theories that are linked with concepts of urban adaptation usually assume a well-structured and functioning governance system. However, the reality is often very different in cities of the global south with weak governance systems, limited urban planning capacity, and no formal adaptation planning on the ground. To better support the world's most vulnerable populations' response to climate change, there is a need for in-depth case study research on adaptive climate governance in cities of the global south. Thus, this thesis sought to understand how urban adaptive governance is envisioned, pursued, and limited via a case study interrogation of Kathmandu, Nepal.
Existing research identifies several critical factors to effective adaptive climate governance. Urban climate adaptation requires a strong, active multilevel coordination system. Urban policy and planning process is a significant strategy of adaptive capacity. Understanding the power of social learning and cultural practices for adaption increases transformative adaptive capacity, a concept that is particularly important when looking outside the western city centric focus of much climate adaptation research. There are challenges to understanding how these concepts translate into action in cities with different contexts, particularly in the least developing countries. This study examines Kathmandu city to explore these factors in an applied context. It employs a qualitative research approach with fifty-one in-depth interviews with city actors carried out to understand the barriers to and enables of adaptive capacity. Interviews with various actors at different levels of government, representatives of aid agencies, urban planning professionals, experts, bureaucrats, and community members examined barriers to and enables of local urban adaptation.
Findings reveal that impacts of climate change and the need for urban adaptation at a local scale are functionally disregarded. Local urban areas face imposed high-level thematic policies that place the unrealistic expectations on local governing actors without the resources and supports to enable the action. Local actors are overburdened with responsibilities and lack capacity enhancement, contributing to increased urban vulnerabilities. Capacity issues include the inability to effectively accept and internalise climate change impacts; limited urban planning skills; poor policy facilitation and implementation; limited data availability and interpretation skills; limited attention to and investment in research knowledge and innovation and high dependency on aid agencies for climate action support. However, despite these failures at a local scale, there is some good progress in national-level policy formulations and in establishing financial flow pathways, driven and supported by international commitments for climate change action. The research reveals the critical need for a more effective translation of national-level efforts to local capacity improvement and action.
This study contributes to our understanding of barriers to and enablers of urban adaption within the multilevel governance settings of the rapidly growing cities of least developing countries, exploring key governing actors, policy formulation and sectoral linkages, intervention approaches and strategies. This study reveals issues with the effectiveness of existing climate adaptation funding; limitations in policy frameworks and instruments, including a lack of evidenced informed practice; and poor accountability mechanisms of climate governance at all levels. It also suggests further potential research on multi-sectoral climate governance; a detailed investigation of local climate impacts in urban contexts; and exploring indirect impacts of climate change and strategies for adaptation.
This case study demonstrates the fundamental capacity failures in global south cities to meet the critical needs for adaptation planning widely discussed in adaptation governing literature. It highlights the nature of western city theory in deriving applied actions in the global south context, and the limitations that arise from this. The foundation of a strong policy and legislative context typically present in western contexts, such as transparent and responsive governance practices, politically stable local government robust planning systems, climate risk labelling technology, social impact assessment, substantial data availability and specified skilled experts are not part of the city governing context in the global south. Thus, this thesis supports a case for new conceptualisations of adaptive planning and action that are founded on the political capability and cultural realities of the global south, rather than over reliance on existing western-based theories and approaches that increasingly appear ineffective to the local context of cities of the least developing countries.
Aikajaksolokak. 2022
TutkittavaJharana Bhattarai Aryal
Tutkimuksen ajankohta
  • RMIT University
Tunnustuksen arvoInternational