Why adaptation falters: principles for climate change adaptation policy assessment in Vietnam

PurposeRecognition that not every climate adaptation policy is a good one has shifted attention to new tools and methods to measure the adequacy and effectiveness of adaptation policies. This study aims to propose and apply and applies an innovative adaptation policy assessment framework to identify the extent to which climate adaptation policies in Vietnam exhibit conditions that are likely to ensure a sufficient, credible and effective adaptation.Design/methodology/approachIn total, 21 conditions, categorized under five normative principles and covering critical issue areas in adaptation domain, form the climate adaptation policy assessment framework. The principles were double-checked and tested in case studies through observations and analyses of policy documents to ensure that each condition should be distinct and not overlapping across principles. To see if the principles and attendant conditions were able to capture all relevant aspects of adaptation, the authors used structured expert judgment. In total, 39 policy documents pertaining to climate change adaptation were selected for qualitative document analysis. In-depth interviews with local officials and experts were conducted to address data gaps.FindingsThe study reveals major weaknesses constituting a reasonably worrisome picture of the adaptation policies in Vietnam since several critical conditions were underrepresented. These results shed new light on why some adaptation policies falter or are posing adverse impacts. The findings suggest that a sound policy assessment framework can provide evidence on what effective adaptation policy looks like and how it can be enabled. The framework for climate adaptation policy assessment in this study can be easily adjusted and used for different socio-environmental contexts in which new conditions for policy assessment might emerge.Social implicationsThe findings show underlying weaknesses constituting a reasonably worrisome picture of the adaptation regime in Vietnam. In the absence of mechanisms and measures for accountability and transparency in policy processes, adaptation in Vietnam appears more likely to be prone to maladaptation and corruption. While solving these problems will not be easy for Vietnam, the government needs to evaluate whether the short-term gains in sustaining the existing adaptation policies really make progress and serve its long-term climate-adaptive development goals.Originality/valueAlthough interpretations of adaptation effectiveness may be very divergent in different normative views on adaptation outcomes, the authors argue that a common, agreed-upon effectiveness can be reached if it is clearly defined and measurable in adaptation policies. Thus, the climate adaptation policy assessment framework proposed in this study is critical for policymakers, practitioners, donors and stakeholders dealing with adaptation to better understand the weaknesses in policymaking processes, pinpoint priority areas of action and timely prevent or prepare for possible adverse impacts of policies.

Citation: Quang, N.M.; Kawarazuka, N.; Nguyen-Pham, T.N.; Nguyen, T.N.; Le, H.M.; Tran, T.T.M.; Huynh, T. 2024. Why adaptation falters: principles for climate change adaptation policy assessment in Vietnam. International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management. ISSN 1756-8706. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijccsm-05-2023-0063