Cardiff University, UK
Position: Lecturer in Planning & Geography
Institution: School of Planning & Geography, Cardiff University
What project did the Early Career Grant allow you to pursue?
“The spatial integration of climate change adaptation governance in the UK: the efficacy of a (city-) regional politics?”
My early career RSA-funded research is entitled: The spatial integration of climate change adaptation governance in the UK: the efficacy of a (city-) regional politics?. Some of the findings of this RSA–funded research are contributing to the development of Sectoral Adaptation Plans with Welsh Government as well as the work we are doing on the Adaptation Sub-Group of the Climate Change Commission for Wales, of which I am now a member. For more information on these see: wales.gov.uk/topics/environmentcountryside and www.cynnalcymru.com/adaptation.
This research aims to unpack the way in which climate adaptation and resilience policy and governance is embedded within the notion of the spatial, particularly the city-region. The city-region has primarily been seen as an economically-defined space or territory whereby major cities utilise the surrounding region to increase economic competitiveness through the practice of agglomeration. This research examines what place, if any, climate adaptation governance has in the city-region. Can we visibly see an adaptation governance taking place in the politics of city-regions? How does adaptation governance in the city-region come into conflict or connect with other city-regional policies? How does the idea of adaptation governance in city-regions relate to higher scales of adaptation governance and policy at the national and international levels so we can talk of an ‘adaptation politics of scale’?
Over thirty interviews have been conducted with relevant policy and governance stakeholders nationally (London) and from the city-regions in Cardiff, Glasgow and the Yorkshire and Humber (Leeds, York, Hull) to examine how adaptation governance is spatially manifested in policy. Key findings so far that will each form the basis of three upcoming research papers to Regional Studies, Territory, Politics and Governance and Global Environmental Politics:
Resilience as a term remains largely academic and theoretical and difficult to operationalize as policy on the ground, with key areas of weakness including policymakers using the term as an all-encompassing buzzword; as a replacement term for adaptation; and the inability of SER to adequately account for processes of socio-spatial agency. This is what we call the ‘resilience trap’. This represents a particular problem in the context of developing integrative climate change governance and policy at the sub-national scale, with the upshot being policymakers face considerable challenges in reconciling the resilience concept with place-specific processes of social adaptation. (This forms the basis of a paper co- written with Professor Gillian Bristow (Cardiff) that will be submitted to Regional Studies)
The research findings also challenge the current orthodoxy of national climate adaptation policy in the UK that positions effective climate adaptation planning being implemented through Sectoral Adaptation Plans (SAPs). Whilst acknowledging the merits of SAPs in adaptation planning, we argue that singularly positioning adaptation policy in this way fails to fully take account of spatial heterogeneity as a pre-requisite for more effective climate adaptation planning across and between scales of governance. Furthermore, we argue that the current implementation of SAPs as a policy panacea reduces adaptation planning to a flat ontology that only demarcates specific sites of adaptation planning. This hinders communication of adaptation best practice between policymakers and theoretically reduces territory to a bounded concept. This contradicts much of the literature on adaptation planning which argues adaptive capacity should be constituted through geographical relationality and the contingency of territory, place(s), networks and scale. As such we call for UK adaptation policymakers working at nested political scales of governance to further consider and integrate the multiplicities of space into future sectoral adaptation planning across the UK. (This forms the basis of a paper co- written with Professor Andrew Jonas (Hull) that will be submitted to Territory, Politics and Governance)
The research findings also contribute to understanding wider spatial relations with respect to climate adaptation policy and governance. Another finding highlights the governance tensions between international and UK sub-national scales with respect to transformative adaptation. It finds that adaptation governance at the international scale is spatially nested and horizontal in form, which hinders the contingency of a multi-level governance rationale between political scales of governance. Adaptation governance at the sub-national scale in the UK is characterized by a subsuming of adaptation into a generic, economic-centric resilience agenda that obfuscates a transformative pathway approach for local adaptation implementation. As such the sub-national scale is not characterized by a transformative approach that is radical in nature; it is rather characterized by adaptation implementation that is at best incremental in form, at worst hollowed-out by an economic resilience agenda. As such we highlight the tensions between adaptation policy-expectation framing at the international scale through nested governance and adaptation policy-reality framing at the local scale through multi-level governance. (This forms the basis of a paper co-written with Dr Theresa Mercer, Professor Paul Milbourne and Professor Terry Marsden (all Cardiff) that will be submitted to Global Environmental Politics)
What tips could you give for a successful Early Career Grant application?
Andrew’s six tips/advice:
1. First get the SUPPORT of one or more senior mentors who can comment on initial drafts of your proposal. Also, scope out a potential referee who has published widely in your research area (especially in RSA affiliated journals).
2. Be REALISTIC in what you want to do for your research. Do not over-commit on outputs. Outputs should be commensurate with the amount of funding you are applying for.
3. In your first draft try to avoid flowery academic language where possible and WRITE FOR THE NON-EXPERT; after you have completed your first draft (and it is checked by one or more of your mentors) try to link your text with relevant academic literature for the academic audience.
4. Be clear about what you are going to research and what methods you will employ to do this (the WHAT and HOW questions)
5. Make sure you CONTEXTUALISE your research within wider academic and policy debates. Ask yourself the ‘SO WHAT?’ question to close the research loop. If you find you have answered this then the proposal is in much better shape and more likely to get funding.
6. If you get the money then ENJOY USING IT – it’s increasingly difficult to get grant money in today’s austere funding climate!
How did this grant help you further your career?
“The RSA early career grant has been invaluable in not only funding my own independent research related to regional studies, but actually giving me access to policymakers and stakeholders working on regional issues so that my research can actually contribute to affecting policy change. As a result of this funding, I am now a member of the sub-adaptation board for the Climate Change Commission for Wales and am currently working with Welsh Government to help develop their climate adaptation sectoral plans.”
Could you share with us a few words on the application process and how supported you have been by the RSA?
The application process was very easy and straightforward, unlike a lot of early career grant application procedures for the Research Councils UK or the EU. As long as you have proposed research that can be completed within the expected duration of the grant (e.g. 12-24 months) then apply. RSA staff are happy to give you advice on the application procedure, but they have made it so straightforward you don’t really have to ask them any questions!