Re-examining policy stability in climate adaptation through a lock-in perspective

E.A.A. Groen*, Meghan Alexander, Julie P. King, Nicolas W. Jager, Dave Huitema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Responding to current and future climate change demands urgent, transformative adaptation, yet in many policy systems inaction continues to prevail. This paper examines apparent resistance to policy change and the persistence of business-as-usual through a ‘lock-in perspective’, which means that attention is paid to how reinforcing mechanisms drive stabilisation and resistance in policy systems. Offering a fresh synthesis of known lock-in mechanisms in the literature, this paper explores the role of those mechanisms in two empirical cases of coastal adaptation: England (U.K.) and Schleswig-Holstein (Germany). While several known lock-mechanisms are observable, some are newly identified in this adaptation context. We offer a critical reflection on the added value of the lock-in perspective for understanding policy stability. In turn, the identification of self- and mutually reinforcing mechanisms provides a much-needed foundation for targeted policy interventions and efforts to ‘unlock’ climate adaptation pathways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-512
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of European Public Policy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Dynamic policy stability
  • climate change adaptation
  • coastal management
  • lock-in mechanisms
  • path dependence
  • policy feedback


Dive into the research topics of 'Re-examining policy stability in climate adaptation through a lock-in perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this