Climate proofing municipalities with usable information
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Municipal practitioners are challenged to plan for climate adaptation. Access to climate vulnerability information is critical, yet the usability of this information is easily compromised by inherent complexities and uncertainties. Science-policy interfaces aim to address this issue, yet the influence of contextual factors on the performance of science-policy interfaces to produce usable climate information is little studied. To address this knowledge gap a specific case of a science-policy interface in The Netherlands was studied: The Climate Adaptation Atlas (CAA). The CAA is an interactive vulnerability map to support local adaptation planning. In practice, Dutch municipalities are currently challenged to formulate an integrative environmental vision as part of a substantial spatial planning reform. This provides an opportunity to institutionalize adaptation. Therefore, this research addressed the question: Which factors determine the usability of the CAA climate information tool to support municipal practitioners in local adaptation planning and how can this be expected to develop anticipating the environmental vision?. An embedded case study design was applied, studying the CAA science-policy interface for five user cases: medium-sized municipalities. In-depth semi-structured interviews with both the CAA producers(n=9) and municipal practitioners(n=10) were performed to describe the actors’ contexts and to evaluate the usability of the CAA. Results were validated with experts(n=4). The analysis revealed six factors that determined the usability: 1)Visual overview: the CAA provides a visual, understandable overview of climate vulnerabilities. 2)Tailor-able: the CAA can be contextualised by adding local geospatial information. 3)Cross-sectorial: the CAA fits the favoured ‘systems approaches. 4)Freely available: the CAA is freely available 5)Co-developed: policy-makers and scientists co-produced the CAA. 6)Co-(prod)used: municipal practitioners further co-produce the CAA with intermediaries. Facilitating cross-sectorial planning approaches, the CAA appeared a promising tool to support the integration of climate adaptation in the environmental vision. Yet the great organizational changes in municipalities resulting from the spatial planning reform demand further guidance on how this integration can be achieved. This research affirms the importance of contextual factors by revealing how inter alia the organizational structure of municipalities and prevailing accountability culture influence the type of climate information that is needed, adopted and used. Furthermore, since the absence of incentives for municipal practitioners and scientists to interact did not compromise the usability of the CAA, the widely advocated process of science-policy co-production was reconsidered. It is suggested to regard co-production on multiple levels and engaging diverse actors. Directions for future research and practical recommendations are provided.