9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN24 Science and Technology

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Disaster and Social Crisis and RN24 Science and Technology Building AA, Auditorio Afonso de Barros

Helping water to flow: institutional context of solutions strengthening permeability

Permeability in urban areas has been diminishing last decades as a result of human interventions (covering ground spaces with concrete surfaces, e.g. roads building etc.). At the same time, climate models predict that due to climate change, sudden precipitations and heat waves will be more likely. Loss of permeable surfaces leads to higher probability of flash floods, but also makes cities more vulnerable to heat waves.
The problem is already recognized and in many countries policies are introduced (e.g. permeability taxes) in order to counteract the adverse effects of lower permeability. Also there are technologies available to help in adaptation: materials for roads and pavements etc. Among the solutions the green and cool pavements, green roofs, permeable car parking places are already implemented.
The solutions are not always new but climate change creates a new context for them. In this sense their implementation is regulatory driven. In Poland, a new regulations were introduced in 2008: the ministerial decree allowing local councils to impose permeability taxes.
In the paper the Poland's situation is considered, in terms of strengthening the permeability in the urban areas. The focus is both on the demand (regulatory) side and on the supply sides, and it is investigated how the process of decision making is made and what are the obstacles in application of the new, permeable solutions.
Green pavements/parking are treated as innovations. In the paper, the institutional side of diffusion of innovation is explored. A model describing factors influencing the decision making is built helping to investigate, what factors are enhancing and what factors counteract in the diffusion of technology.
The analysis of existing regulations and the review of technologies available on the market were done. The factors important in the decision making processes were collected through in-depth interviews with decision makers on the local level.
It is argued that environmental concern is of marginal importance in the decision making process, while the economic aspect is crucial. There is a potential in the use of the information and education techniques, since the permeable solutions could be both environmentally and economically beneficial, but they are hardly recognized.