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Climate governance is a concept used in political ecology and environmental policy. It encompasses the diplomacy, mechanisms and measures "aimed at steering social systems towards preventing, mitigating or adapting to the risks posed by climate change".[1] A definitive interpretation is complicated by the wide range of political and social science traditions (including comparative politics, political economy and multilevel governance) that are engaged in conceiving and analysing climate governance at different levels and across different arenas. In academia, climate governance has become the concern of geographers, anthropologists, economists and business studies scholars.[2]

In the past two decades a paradox has arisen between rising awareness about the causes and consequences of climate change and an increasing concern that the issues that surround it represent an intractable problem. [2] Initially, climate change was approached as a global issue, and climate governance sought to address it on the international stage. This took the form of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), beginning with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in 1992. With the exception of the Kyoto Protocol, international agreements between nations have been largely ineffective in achieving legally binding emissions cuts.[3] This inertia on the international political stage contributed to alternative political narratives that called for more flexible, cost effective and participatory approaches to addressing the multifarious problems of climate change. [4] These narratives relate to the increasing diversity of methods that are being developed and deployed across the field of climate governance. [5]

Climate Governance Timeline[edit]

Year Event
1979 1st World Climate Conference (Organised by World Meteorological Organization)|1988 |IPCC established
1990 1) 1st IPCC report says world has been warming and future warming likely

2) 2nd World Climate Conference

1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) signed by 154 nations at Rio conference
1993 Cities for Climate Protection Program launched
1995 2nd IPCC report detects "signature" of human-caused greenhouse effect warming, declares serious warming is likely in coming century
1997 1) Kyoto Protocol agreed. Binds 38 industrialised countries to reduce GHG emissions by an average of 5.2% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

2) Global Reporting Initiative launched, includes GHG emissions disclosure

2001 1) 3rd IPCC report states global warming, unprecedented since end of last ice age, is "very likely," with possible severe surprises. Effective end of debate among all but few scientists

2) United States announces is to withdraw from Kyoto Protocol

2002 1) ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution

2) EC approves Kyoto Protocol, committing its member states to 5% reduction in anthropogenic emissions of GHG

2005 1) Kyoto Treaty goes into effect, signed by all major industrial nations except US

2) The Large Cities Climate Leadership Group, also known as C40 Cities (and originally as the C20 Cities) founded

2007 1) 4th IPCC report warns serious effects of warming have become evident

2) Western Climate Initiative, or WCI founded. Started by states / provinces in North America to combat climate change caused by global warming, independently of their national governments

2009 1) Copenhagen Accord drafted at 15th Session of the conference of Parties. Conspicuous for absence of legally binding successor to Kyoto Protocol. Accord is voluntary & non legally binding

2) 3rd World Climate Conference (WCC-3)

2012 Kyoto Protocol no longer legally binding but its continuation endorsed by Copenhagen Accord

Background[edit]

The development of climate governance can be traced firstly to climate diplomacy between inter-state actors and secondly to the development of transnational networks and non-state actors. The timeline above highlights key points throughout this process. The point of ‘creation’ is difficult to determine exactly, however a definitive point in its history is the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Rio. This has been termed “the first major milestone in the history of climate diplomacy”. [6] The conference addressed nations from across the globe and sought to emulate the diplomatic success of the Montreal Protocol in phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals. [7]

As climate governance has continued to develop on the international stage, a string of transnational public and public-private actor networks have sought to implement its aims within their own arena, for example the C40, the Global Cities Covenant on Climate (also known as the 'Mexico City Pact'), and the Cities for Climate Protection Programme (CCPP). The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNFCED) in 1992 was a 'trigger' for this process. Existing regional and local networks adopted its emissions reduction targets and began to consider how they could be achieved at a local level. An example is ICLEI ‘Local Governments for Sustainability’ that adopted the convention's Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as part of its commitment to link local action to internationally agreed-upon goals.[8]. Under the umbrella of internationally agreed climate targets, innovative climate governance methods have also developed that seek to reduce emissions using market based mechanisms, for example the 'cap and trade' mechanism.

Thus, while the interstate process of treaty making continues to play a key part in mitigating anthropogenic climate change, it now exists as part of a wider tapestry of private and public climate governance initiatives that operate at multiple scales.[9]

North-South divide[edit]

The North-South divide is a socio-economic and political division. Applied to climate governance, the divide seperates 'developed' northern countries that have historically emitted disproportionately high emissions from 'undeveloped' southern countries that have emitted considerably less emissions.[10] The divide has also been used to highlight differences in vulnerability to climate change (the global south is considered more vulnerable due to a higher incident of natural disasters, less developed infrastructure and less wealth).[11] These divides have fed into all issues of international climate governance, bringing with them questions of social justice and equity that remain current today. [12] A criticism of the divide is that it simplifies an increasingly complex landscape. In recent years, international trade, free capital flows and the development of some southern nations (for example China and India) have redefined global socio-economic and political relations. [13]

Climate Governance ‘in perspective'[edit]

Climate governance has been identified as multi-scale, multi-actor and deeply embedded in our social and physical infrastructure: [14]

  • Multiple scale: Climate governance takes place and has policies enacted across diverse levels and spaces at each scale of governance. This includes supranational, national, regional and local scales. The interaction between these arenas raises important questions about where the power and authority for governing climate change lie. [15] Traditional interpretations of ‘top down’ authority do not necessarily apply in the realm of climate governance which exhibits a far more complex landscape. Local initiatives can be networked horizontally, for example the C40, while some national interests feed back into international agreements. [2]
  • Multi actor: The fragmented and blurred roles of state and non-state actors raises ambiguities concerning their relative roles in the realm of climate governance. [2] Non-state actors play critical roles in shaping the positions adopted by national governments in relation to international climate agreements, for example the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. [2] These actors include scientific, business, lobbyists and community actors. Until the late 1990’s, their influence was considered to be ‘latent’, existing outside common governance arenas. More recently, that role has been reassessed as private actors offer new sites and mechanisms that seek to address climate change. [2]
  • Embedded: The involvement of non-state actors in climate governance is partly a reflection upon the deeply embedded social and economic nature of many of the processes that lead to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. [16] The difficulties in addressing climate change are compounded by the complex range of processes that involve GHG emissions across the planet at all scales. [2] Furthermore, decisions reached in other domains, including trade, energy security and employment inevitably impact on the efforts of climate governance to address anthropogenic climate change. [2]

Role of science[edit]

Particular scientific and technical practices shape and inform our understanding of climate change and in doing so define how environmental problems are defined as objects of governance. For example, recent advances in carbon cycle research, remote sensing and carbon accounting techniques have revealed that tropical deforestation accounts for 15% of global carbon dioxide emissions.[17] As a result, it has become a viable concern of climate governance. Previous to its quantification, tropical deforestation had been expressly excluded from the Kyoto Protocol. [18]

Community engagement in climate governance[edit]

Community engagement plays an important role in the implementation of climate governance policy. There are two main reasons for this. First, where climate governance necessitates change at a behavioural level, there is a need to educate the public in order to achieve this (for example reducing car travel). Where successful, this offers the possibility that communities can become self governing, for example choosing to drive less. [2] Second, effective community engagement ensures that climate governance policies are relevant to the communities in which they are intended to be applied. This necessitates a process of ‘bottom up learning’, as ideas are passed up from a local to national level. This approach has been identified as the normative framework of ‘learning organisations’ [19] and popular within environmental organisations that seek to encourage grassroots development [20]

Market Based Climate Governance[edit]

The history of climate governance has seen increasing emphasis placed on market based solutions, or “flexibility mechanisms”. [2] This is a development that complements, rather than replaces traditional ‘command and control’ regulation. The decision to favour market mechanisms has been identified as inevitable given the growth in popularity of neoliberalism over the past two decades. [21] Thus, targets set at international climate governance conventions have been achieved through the application of markets (for example the EU-ETS), public-private partnerships (for example “type II partnerships”) and the self regulation of industry (for example the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership).

Significantly, the Kyoto Protocol offers participating countries three market based mechanisms as means to meeting their binding emissions reduction targets. These are 'emissions trading' (known as “the carbon market"), 'the clean development mechanism' (CDM) and 'joint implementation' (JI).[22] The three Kyoto market mechanisms have been identified as forms of carbon market governance, a market based form of climate governance. Carbon market governance allows carbon emissions in one place to be exchanged with emissions reductions in another.[23] It relies on measuring, monitoring and verification techniques to commensurate carbon, allowing seemingly disparate activities to appear on the same balance sheet.[24]

The largest working example of carbon market governance to date is the EU-ETS. It is a multinational emissions trading scheme. Advocates of this mechanism cite its focus on improving efficiency, reducing carbon where it is most cost efficient to do so. Its critics identify that it has so far allowed participating industries to profit from excess carbon credits while having little or no effect on their carbon emissions. [25]

Transnational networks of climate governance[edit]

In addition to the efforts of nation-states to coordinate internationally on matters of climate governance, nation-states, non-state actors and private actors are becoming increasingly involved in multiple parallel climate governance partnerships on a global scale. [2] These actors include cities, regions, NGOs and corporations. Their increasingly prominent involvement has led scholars to reassess the nature of power in climate governance as well as the relationship between public and private authority [2]

To distinguish between types of climate governance networks currently in existence, it is useful to separate components into sub-categories. Studies into climate governance have distinguished between modes of governance[26] (self-governing, governing through enabling, governing by provision and governing by authority), types of actors and political scale of governance. [27][28] For the purpose of this section they are separated according to the type of actors involved – ‘public climate governance partnerships’, ‘public-private climate governance’ partnerships and ‘private climate governance partnerships’. 'Modes of governance' and ‘scale’ (e.g. supranational, national, regional, and local) represent equally viable alternatives to this categorisation. While none of these approaches are definitive (each approach exhibits overlaps), defining partnerships according to participating actor is here considered to draw the clearer distinction.

'Public' climate governance partnerships[edit]

  • Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA's): MEA's can take the form of non-legally binding declarations, or legally binding treaties. Treaties between nations include framework conventions like the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, signed at the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). There are four main criticisms of MEAs. First, their policies have been weakened by successive compromises between bargaining nations. [29] Second, where one nation refuses to participate (as occurred with the United States withdrawal from Kyoto), they can still benefit from measures taken by participating nations (for example measures to reduce their GHG emissions), even though they have not had to take action themselves [30] Third, developing country governments lack the capacity to shape and influence negotiating processes, giving developed countries disproportionate power to influence proceedings .[2] Fourth, the number of countries involved in international meetings inevitably leads to conflicts of interest between nations that can make it difficult to reach legally binding agreements.[31]
  • Global city and regional partnerships: Beyond the local scale, the success of urban climate governance depends on horizontal and vertical collaboration between regions and cities. [32] Global city and regional partnerships have been identified as showing particular promise. [33] These can be built into public non-state networks, for example the C40 network, the Global Cities Covenant on Climate, the Cities for Climate Protection Programme (CCPP) and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. Through these networks, mitigation measures and adaptation strategies can be adopted by participating cities worldwide. A criticism of global city and regional partnerships is that their exclusive nature limits influence to participating cities and regions which risks drawing resources away from less powerful city and regional actors.

‘Public-private’ climate governance partnerships[edit]

  • Type II Partnerships: Type II Partnerships are public-private initiatives between public, private and civic organisations that are the outcome of international treaties. The ‘type II’ label serves to contrast them against ‘type I’ partnerships which are the multilateral agreements that more traditionally arise from international treaties. An example of a Type II partnership is the (approximately) 300 partnerships upon which the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 was based.
  • Vertical ‘supply chain’ public-private partnerships: These are partnerships that seek to implement internationally agreed outcomes such as the Millenium Development Goals through supply chain partnerships. This is achieved firstly by facilitating and coordinating interaction between private stakeholders and secondly through constructive engagement between public and private stakeholders regarding the development and delivery of government policies, regulations, programmes and schemes. [34] An example is the Energy Efficiency Partnership for Homes in the UK.

'Private' climate governance partnerships[edit]

  • Self regulating private networks: In recent years, transnational corporations have established partnerships through private networks in a variety of schemes that encourage self regulation of industry. [35] These partnerships are often coordinated by NGOs and funded by government. [36] Existing networks include the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership and the Carbon Disclosure Project. Both of these evidence the importance of NGOs in bringing market actors into the realm of environmental climate governance. [37] Self regulating private networks have been identified as having the potential to lead to behavioural change that could lead to successful global climate governance. [38] At present however, the networks themselves remain largely unregulated and have been criticised for lacking legitimacy, accountability and transparency. [39]

Future Climate Governance[edit]

The core commitments of the Kyoto Protocol expire in 2012[40]. While the more recent Copenhagen Accord endorses these commitments, it does not commit signatory countries to agree on a binding successor. Future global consensus will require the respective roles of developed and developing countries to be determined according to their relative responsibilites and capabilities. Furthermore, all participating countries will need to agree that resultant legal architecture is fair and therefore acceptable.[41] A key limitation in achieving this is the refusal of the United States to commit to legally binding negotiations. The re-engagement of the United States in this field has been cited as a potential future "trigger" that could lead to multilateral legally binding emissions reductions in GHG emissions.[42]

Movement at a national level could also stimulate multilateral negotiations as some countries look set to press ahead with legally binding emissions cuts. On 17th May 2011, the UK Government introduced the Fourth Carbon Budget which aims to "set an ambitious target in law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions . . . and build momentum toward a legally global climate change deal".[43]

In the absence of a multilateral emissions reduction agreement, the future direction of climate governance remains uncertain.[9] Supranational and national legislation could legislate the continuation of market based emissions reduction mechanisms, for example the EU-ETS. The increased agency of non-state actors in the realm of global governance and the growth of public and public-private networks offer the potential for the global climate arena to develop at a sub-national level.[44] Recent attempts to 'territorialise' the carbon cycle seek to frame climate change as a local rather than global problem by rearticulating the global carbon cycle as a combination of national 'sinks'.[45]

References[edit]

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  41. ^ Biermann, F.Pattberg, P.Zelli, F. Global climate governance beyond 2012: architecture, agency and adaptation. Cambridge.  Unknown parameter |p ublisher= ignored (help)
  42. ^ Biermann, F.Pattberg, P.Zelli, F. Global climate governance beyond 2012: architecture, agency and adaptation. Cambridge.  Unknown parameter |p ublisher= ignored (help)
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