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Legitimacy Building under Weak Institutional Settings:Climate Change Adaptation at the Local Level in Denmark and Norway

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  • Climate Adaptation
  • Local Government
  • Decision-Making
  • Learning
  • Legitimacy Building
  • Institutional Entrepreneurs
  • Communication


In this article, we discuss local strategies for addressing the adaptation to climate change in Denmark and Norway. In both countries, the national impetus for local ad- aptation is weak. Thus, when it comes to the adaptation to climate change, it is largely left to local actors to take the initiative. The article seeks to shed light on the dynamics of the different approaches to climate change adaptation at the local level. Based on decision-making and learning theory, we present an analytical framework to examine four Scandinavian cases, two in Norway and two in Denmark, which represent two dif- ferent responses, i.e. anticipatory actions and obligatory actions to climate change adap- tation. Two of the municipalities – one in Norway and one in Denmark - are engaged in obligatory action in terms of addressing new climatic conditions and tend to use ex- isting standard operating procedures. The two other municipalities are engaging in an- ticipatory action. They are generally well aware of the adaptation issues and use innova- tive approaches to the new challenges. This research finds that, by bringing in knowledge and resources and engaging in persuasive communication across sectors, the presence of institutional entrepreneurs in the adaptation process plays a key role in building legitimacy for anticipatory action in the municipal organisation.

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