Nature is the key to Climate Change Adaptation (CCA):
: A Qualitative Research on Local Achievements and Lock-ins in the Dutch Natura 2000 area Geuldal

  • G. van den Hove

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Climatic changes affect the natural and human socio-economic system. In addition to mitigation and nature conservation, climate change adaptation (CCA) plays an essential role in strategies on climate change. The urge for CCA has been recognised by experts and leaders for decades, although actions so far are lagging behind, implying a gap between policy development and implementation. Understanding policy processes and the functioning of institutions is therefore essential. Currently, CCA policy processes lack significantly in the implementation stages or focus unilaterally on water management, encouraging a status quo mode. Such an attachment to the status quo is known as a ‘lock-in’.

Focusing on the field of nature conservation and enhancing biodiversity in the ‘Geuldal’ area in the Netherlands, this research concentrates on revealing potential lock-ins in climate change adaptation policies. It aims to sharpen our understanding of lock-in mechanisms, to explain them, and to additionally formulates recommendations for future policy designs.

A theoretical and empirical cross-disciplinary research is conducted, using qualitative mixed methodologies: semi-structured expert interviews, desk study and field observations, to evaluate three specific types of lock-in mechanisms regarding institutions, infrastructure & technology, and human behaviour.

The research results identify local lock-in mechanisms within CCA policy development, as well as a current lack of CCA implementation. Until recently, policies essentially focused on infrastructural and technological measures in water management and additionally ignoring CCA on heat and drought. Lock-ins are determined specifically on the basis of performance on spatial planning (infrastructure), governance and human behaviour (institutions). This research aims to provide insight in lock-in mechanisms that lead to a status quo in CCA implementation. The review of the research results shows that:
1. an impressive number of lock-in mechanisms has been reported from experts’ points of view;
2. lock-in mechanisms are not adequately defined or recognised in practice;
3. the most frequently reported lock-in mechanisms relate to the institutional domain (governance and human behaviour) and spatial planning (infrastructure).

The main findings of this research endorse total system approaches (food chain, water systems, energy transition, etc.), while focusing on the use of natural systems (both aquatic and terrestrial), expelling the exclusive use of technologies in water management. Based on land use, we should divide between a focus on rural areas and urban areas and address crucial actors specifically, i.e., agriculture (rural areas) and civilians (urban areas). Additionally, all this asks for good communication, adequate budgets, human capacity, facilitating expert engagement, and access to knowledge. These facts represent complexity in policy development and implementation. A transformation of thinking and acting (different mindset) in society is needed to realise a sustainable adaptive system to climatic changes and to enhance biodiversity. To prevent lock-ins it is essential to concentrate on institutions and human behaviour and additionally meeting space to implement CCA in practise.
Date of Award24 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorLisanne Groen (Examiner) & Jean Hugé (Co-assessor)


  • Adaptation lock-ins
  • climate change adaptation
  • barriers
  • system approach
  • natural approach
  • nature conservation
  • biodiversity

Master's Degree

  • Master Environmental Sciences

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