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Reconceptualizing green infrastructure for climate change adaptation: Barriers to adoption and drivers for uptake by spatial planners

Reconceptualizing green infrastructure for climate change adaptation: Barriers to adoption and drivers for uptake by spatial planners

Tony Matthews Alex Y. Lo  Jason A. Byrne

Abstract

Urban green infrastructure can help cities adapt to climate change. Spatial planning can play an important role in utilizing green infrastructure for adaptation. Yet climate change risks represent a different sort of challenge for planning institutions. This paper aims to address two issues arising from this challenge. First, it defines the concept of green infrastructure within the context of climate adaptation. Second, it identifies and puts into perspective institutional barriers to adopting green infrastructure for climate adaptation, including path dependence. We begin by arguing that there is growing confusion among planners and policy makers about what constitutes green infrastructure. Definitional ambiguity may contribute to inaction on climate change adaptation, because it muddies existing programs and initiatives that are to do with green-space more broadly, which in turn feeds path dependency. We then report empirical findings about how planners perceive the institutional challenge arising from climate change and the adoption of green infrastructure as an adaptive response. The paper concludes that spatial planners generally recognize multiple rationales associated with green infrastructure. However they are not particularly keen on institutional innovation and there is a tendency for path dependence. We propose a conceptual model that explicitly recognizes such institutional factors. This paper contributes to the literature by showing that agency and institutional dimensions are a limiting factor in advancing the concept of green infrastructure within the context of climate change adaptation.