Conditions of ‘Sustainability’ : The Case of Climate Change Adaptation in Sweden

Abstract: By describing climate change as one of the greatest challenges of our time, the Swedish government has expressed a commitment to climate change adaptation as an integral part of the country’s sustainable development efforts. Sweden has also been portrayed as a frontrunner of climate policy and sustainable development. However, research and rankings describe even the ‘good example’ of Sweden as unsustainable, including its responses to climate change. Transformation is needed.Based on the ‘what’s the problem represented to be?’ (WPR) approach, this thesis describes and problematizes conditions of ‘sustainability’ constituted through problem representations of governing climate change adaptation in Sweden. In addition, the study provides a discussion of alternative problem representations constituting conditions with new possibilities for transformation.The empirical material for the analysis of current conditions in Sweden consists of policy documents as well as interviews with municipal and regional experts involved in promoting and implementing adaptation. I also analyze conditions constituted through problem representations in research. These are used as points of comparison for the problematization of conditions in Sweden.My conclusions are that the current conditions of ‘sustainability’, constituted through the problem representations in Sweden, create a focus on advancing functional governance of adaptation as well as a focus on reducing marginalization of neglected sustainability concerns by integrating them with the current order of things. Problematizations of domination are largely absent. I argue that possibilities for transformation could be advanced by problematizing domination. Through problematizations of the current decentralization of responsibility, the integration imperative, and the primacy of economic growth over environmental and social dimensions of sustainability, I suggest ways in which this type of problematization could be facilitated.

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