Complexities of Multi-level Climate Change Governance in Rotterdam

Despite Rotterdam’s overwhelmingly successful management of climate-change-associated flood risk, complexities and difficulties continue to stymie multi-level governance. This provides other cities seeking flood risk reduction an opportunity to learn useful governance lessons.

Uncertainty predicates the need for multi-level, multi-scale and multi-actor governance. Since the flood problem transcends geographical scales and sectors, adaptation strategies benefit from a multi-level government structure.

However, this carries its own set of difficulties:

lesson 1.png


This is further illustrated with the following case studies:

lesson 2.png

lesson 3

lesson 4

We gather from these case studies that key problems stem from misaligned objectives and difficulties in assigning responsibility.

Continued attempts to distinguishing between global or local, state or non-state actors and processes perpetuates disjointed policy generation, non-transparent responsibility allocation and the lack of incentive for actors to cooperate.

The recognition of the local scale as an important site for governance is an important first step. Local authorities often have authority over land-use and the flexibility to meet predefined policy goals set within national and international arenas while exercising power to remain sensitive to local contexts. This makes the local is a highly appropriate political jurisdiction (Bulkeley and Betsill, 2006).

Despite the growing influence of non-state actors in environmental regimes, their significance remains determined by their ability to shape, facilitate and change national, regional or global policies. This points to problematic fundamental assumptions that equate political power with the nation-state or large-scale institutions.

Hence, it is worth considering that the success of multi-level governance begins with throwing out assumptions of a vertical relationship that consigns local governance to the bottom of this hierarchy.


Resources I used:

Betsill, M. M. and Bulkeley, H. (2006) ‘Cities and the Multilevel Governance of Global Climate Change’, Global Governance, Vol. 12, 141 – 159.

Ward, P. J., Pauw, W. P., van Buuren, M. W. & Marfai, M. A. (2013) ‘Governance of flood risk management in a time of climate change: the cases of Jakarta and Rotterdam’, Environmental Politics, Vol. 22, No. 3, 518 – 536.

(254 words)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s