The roles of public and private actors in the governance of adaptation: the case of agricultural insurance in India

Produced as part of the Adaptation to climate change and human development CCCEP research programme theme

Also known as Munich Re Technical Paper: 15


Climate change adaptation is an increasingly important field and will involve a range of actors from national governments to private companies, communities and households.

There is a growing policy discourse supporting the involvement of the private sector in adaptation. However, there is little empirical examination to show how the sector might be involved and how adaptation might be governed.

This paper uses evidence from the field of risk governance and insurance and analytical frameworks from the wider governance literature to draw important findings for the governance of adaptation.

We use the recently published Compendium of Disaster Risk Initiatives in the Developing World and a case study of agricultural insurance in India to argue that the role of the private sector is increasing, but so far within a particular model of engagement. In the context of climate change, how the public-private relationships are constructed is key to how adaptation can be leveraged from such an arrangement.

The evidence in this paper suggests that due to commercial viability and other concerns, there will continue to be a role for the public sector alongside the private sector to ensure adaptation measures address vulnerability.

In conclusion, we argue that the type of relationship between the public and the private actors has a significant influence on the adaptation outcomes. The question is not purely about involving the private sector, which is how this is currently framed within policy and academic work on adaptation, but how the private actors are engaged. Governments seeking to engage private actors need to build those relationships with the desired adaptation outcomes in mind.

Susannah Fisher and Swenja Surminski