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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Adaptation ecologies : circuits of climate change finance, policy, and science in the Pacific Islands Webber, Sophie Rachel


In order to address the expected impacts of climate change, international development institutions have instigated adaptation projects and policies. These efforts promise to mitigate anticipated harms in vulnerable-to-climate-change social and ecological systems. This dissertation examines the operation and dissemination of adaptation projects and policies in the context of small island states in the Pacific region. It also explores the important role that the pre-eminent development institution, the World Bank, plays in programming adaptation. The research questions explored here are: i) How do finance, policy and science circulate in the name of adaptation? ii) What do the circulation of finance, policy and science achieve for adaptation in Kiribati and Solomon Islands? and iii) Why is the World Bank invested in adaptation, or what does adaptation do for the World Bank and other developmental actors? In answering these questions, I draw from multi-sited primary fieldwork, participant observation, and documentary analysis: at the World Bank in Washington, DC and Sydney, within the public bureaucracies of Australia, Kiribati, and Solomon Islands, and with regional organizations and development partners in the Pacific region. This dissertation posits the emergence of a Pacific Adaptation Complex. The analytical concept of the Pacific Adaptation Concept recognizes the vast institutional arrangements, configurations of expertise, and project technologies that come together to make adaptation happen. Within the Complex, experimental nodes are key, as are multi-directional flows. Yet, I find that, overwhelmingly, flows and investments for adaptation are dogged by persistent stickiness, and a rhetorical attention to mobility and success that is indifferent to practical outcomes. However, the promise of adaptation finance, policy, and science works through failing development institutions and imaginaries, allowing reinvention in an era of development crisis.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada