New INOGOV research published in Nature Climate Change

After the last big international climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, it has become clear that the UNFCCC alone cannot be expected to protect the world from the threat of dangerous climate change. Other actors and levels of governance must also be involved – driving the emergence of more ‘bottom-up’ forms of climate governance.

New research published in the journal Nature Climate Change discusses the innovative forms of
governing that are indeed appearing beneath and around the UNFCCC and the challenges they raise in assessing climate ambition. Initiatives by non-state actions have led to new standards for carbon credits, emissions accounting systems, carbon labelling schemes and collaborations between cities, just to name a few. The trend is encouraging to those who have long supported the advantages of ‘bottom-up’ governance.

Whilst welcoming evidence of new sources of leadership in climate governance, INOGOV Chair Andy Jordan and his co-authors argue that the policy debate should be rooted in a solid understanding of what is actually happening on the ground. However, all too often misplaced over-enthusiasm creeps into discussions of innovation.

They also argue that we are surprisingly ignorant about what the new forms of governance contribute by way of emission reductions. Efforts to catalogue and evaluate who is doing what – seldom an immediate political priority – should be increased, building on existing data-collecting activities both within and outside the UNFCCC. When it comes to evaluating individual policies, there is even less comparable data.

Given existing knowledge gaps, it is too early to say whether bottom up action will deliver and indeed ‘save the day’. Instead, the authors argue that the world should continue to strive for an ambitious international agreement whilst governance experiments continue to provide insights into the opportunities and risks presented by increasing bottom-up climate governance.

For more details see: Jordan, A.J.; Huitema, D.; Hildén, M.; van Asselt,H.; Rayner, T.J.; Schoenefeld, J.J.; Tosun, J.; Forster, J.; Boasson, E.L. Emergence of polycentric climate governance and its future prospects. Nature Climate Change (2015).

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