5 years ago

Varieties of flood risk governance in Europe: How do countries respond to driving forces and what explains institutional change?

Floods are challenging the resilience of societies all over the world. In many countries there are discussions on diversifying the strategies for flood risk management, which implies some sort of policy change. To understand the possibilities of such change, a thorough understanding of the forces of stability and change of underlying governance arrangements is required. It follows from the path dependency literature that countries which rely strongly on flood infrastructures, as part of flood defense strategies, would be more path dependent. Consequently there is a higher chance to find more incremental change in these countries than in countries that have a more diversified set of strategies. However, comparative and detailed empirical studies that may help scrutinize this assumption are lacking. To address this knowledge gap, this paper investigates how six European countries (Belgium, England, France, The Netherlands, Poland and Sweden) essentially differ with regard to their governance of flood risks. To analyze stability and change, we focus on how countries are responding to certain societal and ecological driving forces (ecological turn; climate change discourses; European policies; and the increasing prevalence of economic rationalizations) that potentially affect the institutional arrangements for flood risk governance. Taking both the variety of flood risk governance in countries and their responses to driving forces into account, we can clarify the conditions of stability or change of flood risk governance arrangements more generally. The analysis shows that the national-level impact of driving forces is strongly influenced by the flood risk governance arrangements in the six countries. Path dependencies are indeed visible in countries with high investments in flood infrastructure accompanied by strongly institutionalized governance arrangements (Poland, the Netherlands) but not only there. Also more diversified countries that are less dependent on flood infrastructure and flood defense only (England) show path dependencies and mostly incremental change. More substantial changes are visible in countries that show moderate diversification of strategies (Belgium, France) or countries that ‘have no strong path yet’ in comprehensive flood risk governance (Sweden). This suggests that policy change can be expected when there is both the internal need and will to change and a barrage of (external) driving forces pushing for change.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S095937801730242X

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