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Adaptation to climate change in Quebec’s coastal zone: a difficult transformation of public action

Mélinda Noblet (University Center for Research on Public and Political Action, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens, France and Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Canada)
Genevieve Brisson (Université du Québec à Rimouski, Rimouski, Canada)

International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management

ISSN: 1756-8692

Publication date: 15 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

In recent years, the manifestation of the effects of climate change in coastal zones has prompted governments to mobilize and propose adaptation measures to reduce the vulnerability of their populations. For the governments responsible for the implementation of climate policies, adaptation still represents a novel field of action. The purpose of this paper is to show, via the example of Quebec’s coastal zone, how the transformation of public action relating to adaptation remains difficult.

Design/methodology/approach

For this case study, a qualitative method which combines documentary analysis and semi-directed interviews was selected.

Findings

The study shows how adaptation becomes a new issue in public action for the different authorities dealing with the effects of climate change in Quebec’s coastal zone. However, the results show that, as with other public policies, path dependence and incrementalism can be observed and limit the scope of public action and of the transformational processes in the field of adaptation. The technical–scientific approach to risk management is dominant, and the adaptation is not approached in a transversal way, despite its importance. Finally, concrete adaptation initiatives appear to be mostly relegated to the local scale, in an informal decentralization process.

Originality/value

This study contributes to improve climate action by favouring a reflection on the consideration of the conceptual and theoretical framework in the climate change adaptation literature and offers decision-makers and practitioners keys to the understanding of mechanisms underlying public action in the field of adaptation.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada under the Community-University Research Alliance (CURA) on Coastal Communities Challenges in the Estuary and Gulf of St. Lawrence facing climate change (CCC-CURA) program (grant number 833-2009-4010). The authors also thank the Institut National de Santé Publique du Québec for its logistic support.

Citation

Noblet, M. and Brisson, G. (2017), "Adaptation to climate change in Quebec’s coastal zone: a difficult transformation of public action", International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, Vol. 9 No. 03, pp. 282-298. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCCSM-04-2016-0047

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited