Climate change adaptation: business-as-usual aid and development or an emerging discourse for change?

Philip Ireland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - Climate change adaptation (CCA) has emerged as a significant new theme in development and many large development agencies, including bilateral, multilateral or non-government, are embarking on new programs focusing on CCA. However, the development sector has witnessed the rise and fall of many new development themes over the past 60 years around which funding has coalesced, only to see them fade away. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the new concept of CCA is being conceptualised and utilised by aid workers in order to shed light on challenges and opportunities for effective CCA and development practices. Design/methodology/approach - This paper has emerged from a broader study that involved 35 semi-structured interviews, focus groups and participant observation with various stakeholders engaged in development and CCA. The research sought to understand how development actors defined CCA, what activities they associated with it, and how they were using the concept in their work. Findings - This paper finds that there is a range of different, and at points contradictory, conceptualisations of CCA within the field of development. CCA discourses are being used in at least two different ways: to enable the re-legitimisation and repetition of old development practices as well as to open a space for new practices and imagining of alternatives. Originality/value - This paper offers a unique perspective of how a set of development actors are conceptualising and utilising the concept of climate change adaptation in their work. This timely contribution builds on a long history of critical development theory, which has interrogated development discourses, by investigating original data that explores this increasingly prominent theme in aid and development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-100
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Development Issues
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • Development
  • Discourse


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