Macquarie University
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Climate change adaptation and development aid: emerging challenges and opportunities

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posted on 2022-03-28, 20:03 authored by Philip Edward Ireland
Adaptation to anthropogenic climate change has emerged as a key focus of developmentaid. Current financing commitments indicate that there will be tens of billions of dollars infunding each year for adaptation in the developing world, most of which will be channelledthrough the development sector including non-governmental organisations, multilateraland bilateral development agencies. However, in light of the many serious critiques ofdevelopment aid over the past five decades, there are pressing questions around how theseadaptation efforts of the development sector in the developing world can be effective,appropriate and sustainable. This thesis engages with these questions by investigating how adaptation is beingconceptualised and utilised by different actors associated with the development sector. Theinvestigation draws upon extensive primary and secondary data, collected with a range ofqualitative research techniques, at local, national and international sites. These includeexploratory literature reviews, semi-structured interviews, participant observation andfocus groups. This thesis draws together a number of different papers that investigateadaptation and the development sector to identify some of the challenges and opportunitiesfor the planning and implementation of adaptation. This thesis calls for rethinking of how the subject of adaptation is being engaged by thedevelopment sector. The research shows that adaptation is being conceptualised in manydivergent ways and that there is a need for clearer and commonly understood boundariesin its meaning. It also demonstrates that development actors are utilising differentconceptualisations to support particular approaches to development aid that are guided bypre-existing assumptions, such as the need for economic growth. This thesis also drawsupon research from local community sites in Nepal and Bangladesh to argue that existingperceptions and practices of communities, including collective action, should be keyconsiderations in the planning and implementation of adaptation processes. The findings ofthe papers in this thesis come together to provide guidance for the development sector bysuggesting that approaches to adaptation should not be bedded in long held assumptions ofhow development aid should happen. Rather, adaptation needs to be approachedcautiously, and in a way that supports the diverse practices of local communities as theyreact in their own particular ways to the threat of climate change.


Table of Contents

1. Introduction -- 2. Methodology, methods, field sites and participants -- 3. A brief history of development aid -- 4. Climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction: contested spaces and emerging opportunities in development theory and practice -- 5. Climate change adaptation exchanges: an exploration of the possibilities and risks -- 6. Climate change adaptation: business-as-usual development or an emerging discourse for change? -- 7. Nepalganj, the centre of the world: local perceptions of environmental change and the roles of climate change adaptation actors -- 8. The role of collective action in enhancing communities' adaptive capacity to environmental risk: an exploration of two case studies from Asia -- 9. Strategic localism for an uncertain world: a postdevelopment approach to climate change adaptation -- 10. Conclusion -- Appendices


Thesis by publication Includes bibliographical references Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of : Doctor of Philosophy "February 2013"

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Science, Department of Environment and Geography

Department, Centre or School

Department of Environment and Geography

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Frank Thomalla

Additional Supervisor 1

Katherine McKinnon

Additional Supervisor 2

Lisa Schipper


Copyright Philip Edward Ireland 2013. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (221 pages, bound) illustrations (many colour), map

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