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The International Renewable Energy Agency: a success story in institutional innovation?

  • Johannes Urpelainen
  • Thijs Van de Graaf
Original Paper

Abstract

This article interprets the role and significance of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in global environmental and energy governance. First, we conduct a comparative analysis of IRENA and other recent innovations in global governance, showing that IRENA stands out with regard to the timing of creation, speed of ratification, and focus of the mandate. Second, we identify three mechanisms through which IRENA can promote the global diffusion of renewable energy: (1) by offering valuable epistemic services to its member states, (2) by serving as a focal point for renewable energy in a scattered global institutional environment, and (3) by mobilizing other international institutions to promote renewable energy. Finally, we reflect on the conditions that could make IRENA’s policies a continued success and on the lessons that the experience with IRENA holds for other attempts at innovation in global governance.

Keywords

Global energy governance IRENA Renewable energy Institutional innovation 

Abbreviations

IRENA

International Renewable Energy Agency

USD

United States dollar

OPEC

Organization of Petroleum-Exporting Countries

UN

United Nations

REN21

Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century

UNEP

United Nations Environment Programme

IEA

International Energy Agency

EU

European Union

CCS

Carbon capture and storage

EPO

European Patent Office

OECD

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development

REEEP

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Program

GBEP

Global Bioenergy Partnership

FAO

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

UNFCCC

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

JREC

Johannesburg Renewable Energy Coalition

Notes

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Frank Biermann, Jeff Colgan, Sander Happaerts, Timothy Meyer, and Sarah Van Eynde for commenting on earlier drafts. We also thank the editors of International Environmental Agreements and the anonymous reviewers for their advice. All interviewees are commended for their openness and contribution.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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