Preferences for comprehensive policy mixes. Adaptation to climate change in Swiss flood risk management - PhDData

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Preferences for comprehensive policy mixes. Adaptation to climate change in Swiss flood risk management

The thesis was published by Glaus, Anik, in September 2022, University of Bern.


Climate change is a complex environmental problem with extensive effects on society. The simultaneous affectedness of manifold policy sectors, decision-making levels, and regions, calls for comprehensive policy solutions. Such comprehensive policy solutions combine multiple policy instruments into a mix and address different dimensions of a problem. Nevertheless, comprehensive policy mixes are difficult to introduce in multi-actor processes, such as climate change adaptation. Numerous actors are required to adapt their behavior, and thus, broad rejection of comprehensive policy mixes emerges. Actors’ acceptance, in particular their instrument preferences, prove crucial to enhance comprehensive policy mixes’ chances of being adopted to address complex environmental problems. Depending on the context and existing influencing factors, actors are more likely to exhibit preferences for or against such comprehensive policy mixes.
The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the chances of introducing comprehensive policy mixes to adapt to climate change effects. Therefore, the dissertation seeks to understand the nexus between comprehensive policy mixes, actors’ preferences for such policy mixes, and factors influencing actors’ instrument preferences. By asking the research question which factors enhance actors’ preferences for introducing comprehensive policy mixes in climate change adaptation?, the dissertation contributes to the public policy literature at the intersection with climate change adaptation research. The three articles of the dissertation deal with an in-depth analysis of actors’ preferences for comprehensive policy mixes (first article); an investigation of the relationship between actors’ problem exposure, their problem perception, and their preferences for a diversified instrument portfolio (second article); and an overview of whether and in which direction potential problem, procedural, and structural factors influence actors’ instrument preferences (third article). To this end, the dissertation adopts a case study and surveys elite actors in three local flood risk management processes in Switzerland. The data is analyzed by a mixed-mode method, including an index approach, correlation and regression analyses, and interview statements.
The dissertation’s findings illustrate that the surveyed elite actors show weak preferences for cross-sectoral, multi-level, and transterritorial policy mixes. Thus, comprehensive policy mixes are currently unlikely to be adopted in Swiss flood risk management processes. Nonetheless, a trend to complement existing “silo”-oriented instruments with comprehensive, sustainable, and diversified instruments is emerging. Elite actors’ preferences are linked to characteristics, such as their role in the policy design process and the policy sector or decision-making level they represent. In addition, elite actors’ problem perception constitutes the major driver for their instrument preferences. Thus, actors’ strong flood risk perceptions result in increased preferences for comprehensive flood risk management portfolios. The dissertation proposes several procedures to enhance actors’ problem perception and strengthen their preferences for comprehensive policy mixes.

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