Outsourcing adaptation: A critical examination of consultants and how they shape the way government plans for a changing climate (17047)
Across advanced liberal democracies, we are witnessing a growing trend of governments turning to private sector consultancies as an influential source of knowledge and advice. Yet the role of consultants remains largely unexplored by critical geographers, stemming in part from difficulties in opening the “black box” of consulting. This research uses climate change adaptation planning as a window into emerging and hybrid forms of public-private environmental governance, and the role that consultants play in its neoliberalisation. Adaptation planning has become an enshrined policy response taken up by governments at all scales. Collectively, these policy responses represent a pervasive social project with very real consequences for the way we understand and prepare for climate change. Individually, however, adaptation planning can be understood as a situated and contested organisational practice that is powerfully influenced by how adaptation is framed as well as the prevailing government decision-making culture. Adaptation as a “local” issue and a “knowledge intensive” process implicates actors with local knowledge such as local government, but also requires they are appropriately “informed” with credible and contextualised climate change and adaptation science. Governments are increasingly outsourcing adaptation planning to private sector consultancies, but with what consequences? Drawing on emerging Foucauldian scholarship in geography and management studies, and the presenter’s own professional experience in adaptation consulting, this talk will review the performative work of consultants who operate in local and global assemblages of practice and ultimately (re)produce particular frames, discourses and rationalities of adaptation.