Attn. Charlotte Ballard

Environmental Governance Group

Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development

Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University

Heidelberglaan 2
3584 CS Utrecht
The Netherlands



From CCAFS Scenarios to RE-IMAGINE: Insights into the disconnect between climate foresight and anticipatory climate governance from a Connecting Communities Workshop


On 23 January 2018, CCAFS Scenarios sister project, Re-imagining anticipatory climate governance in the world’s vulnerable regions (RE-IMAGINE) was launched at the Utrecht University Museum in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Building on the work of the CCAFS Scenarios Project, RE-IMAGINE investigates ways in which foresight processes that explore the implications of different climate futures can play a role in appropriate and effective modes of anticipatory climate governance in the world’s most vulnerable regions.


During the “Connecting Communities Workshop”, small groups made up of participants from diverse fields mapped out their various expertise, along with the challenges and opportunities they faced personally and in their field more generally when planning for climate change.


The launch brought together over 50 participants from within and outside CCAFS working in fields related to climate governance. This included governance scholars and foresight scholars, policymakers, and representatives from civil society and the private sector.


We have drawn on these expertise to identify research priorities for RE-IMAGINE and facilitate collaborations between different societal actors around the practice of anticipatory governance. Here we capture the key insights generated during the discussions.


Disconnects in climate governance


Lack of knowledge sharing between actors

Local governments, NGOs and local populations do not effectively share knowledge, which can result in a lack of knowledge or duplication of efforts. In addition, knowledge generated by NGOs hardly reaches governments. Academia has to deal with a ‘publish or perish’ culture, prioritizing publishing on transformative change over change agents and action on social transformation. Some argued that discussions on climate adaptation are often overly technical and ‘inside the box’. Others pointed to difficulties in communicating about sustainability to the wider public due to its negative framing, which is not conducive to changing consumption patterns. Sustainability is about ‘doing less’: reducing emissions, reducing meat consumption.


Social economies at (inter)national level often disconnected from socioecological bodies tending to operate on regional level

As local level actors are often poorly represented, opportunities could be found in aggregating local issues up to the global level. Opportunities should seek to connect communities working on local and national governance with communities working on regional governance. For example, the national and local level emission reduction targets are formulated in the national context, but objectives are not translated to the local level.


Many barriers to the development of climate adaptation policies

Institutional barriers, for example, may hinder the application of scenario tools and integration of outcomes of foresight processes into policymaking. Integrating futures thinking is generally obstructed and policymaking generally tends to fall back into old practices instead of developing progressive approaches. There's also a clear tension between long-term developments in climate change and short-term priorities in its governance (or lack thereof).


Connecting communities and ideas


Many interesting ideas for collaboration resulted from the group discussions. To connect sectors, participants suggested that ideas could be exchanged between different sectors and countries within a region, and upscaling successful projects and good actions (best practices). The private sector should take on an entrepreneurial role and facilitate this exchange.  


To connect actors, a solution could be for more multi-actor and multi-perspective dialogue and collaboration. The question arose on how these dialogues should take place (instead of whether these dialogues should take place) and how to ensure uptake of knowledge (in policy). A second question arose around how to remain critical in such dialogues. However, by acknowledging new actors, such as city networks and municipalities, women’s organizations, local NGOs, key individuals and local leaders, critical voices can be included.


To improve knowledge sharing, a collective idea emerged for the joining forces of the media, private sector and NGOs on finding new positive narratives for the communication of climate adaption, for example in positively communicating sustainable behavior and taking action. A solution to the knowledge gap between academia and practice could be to move from a ‘sum of its parts’-approach, where the sum might be greater than its part, and where collaboration is coherent and transformative. One group talked about connecting climate change impacts to conflict, a urgent topic in many vulnerable parts of the world, the military might help map climate-related conflicts (see picture 1).























Picture 1. Flipchart of the ‘climate & conflict’ discussion


Strengthening a fragmented research community


The examples in this blog are only a selection of many interesting insights and ideas for collaborative actions that were shared during the day. With RE-IMAGINE underway for a little over half a year, the launch event marked the beginning of a new transdisciplinary community on climate foresight and climate governance in research and practice. A forthcoming literature review has focused on research community engagement with anticipatory climate governance. One of its key findings is that anticipatory climate governance is increasingly taking centre stage in climate governance areas, but its research and practice communities are fragmented.


RE-IMAGINE aims to strengthen the anticipatory climate governance community, not only through theoretical research, but also by strengthening its practices. The launch event served to connect communities, and also to provide opportunities that contribute to the research priorities RE-IMAGINE.


By Karlijn Muiderman and Charlotte Ballard

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