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Resolving the adaptation paradox: exploring the potential for deliberative adaptation policy-making in Bangladesh

Providing support for adaptation under a global governance structure presents a paradox: climate change is a global risk, yet vulnerability is locally experienced. To achieve a “development first” approach to adaptation, this paper argues that it is necessary to understand the local context of vulnerability to climate change.

Using the case study of Bangladesh’s National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs), the author critically examines the country’s attempt to “democratise” global environmental policy. She finds that the intention behind NAPAs is promising, demonstrating an acknowledgement by policy-makers of the importance of locally deliberative institutions in realising effective adaptation. However, there remains a significant tension between local and global definitions of climate change risk, which impact the effectiveness and legitimacy of the participatory processes undertaken during NAPA development.

It is proposed that one possible entry point for meaningful local deliberation in global climate change policy-making processes would be to use early analysis and engagement of existing local institutional frameworks as a starting point for national adaptation planning.

In conclusion, this article supports the idea that NAPAs are currently the most promising option for the inclusion of vulnerable groups in adaptation policy-making. However, the challenges presented by the adaptation paradox make it necessary to move beyond simply creating avenues for participation, towards ensuring that these avenues allow for the dominant framing of climate change risk to be contested, and create entry points for meaningful local deliberation.