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Connect the dots: managing the fragmentation of global climate governance

  • Research Article
  • Governance on Low Carbon Technology Transfer
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Abstract

The debate about post-2012 global climate governance has been framed largely by proponents and opponents of the policymaking process established by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). In light of the proliferation of institutions governing some aspects of climate change, analysts have asked whether a centralized or a polycentric climate governance architecture will be more effective, efficient, equitable, or viable. While these are valid questions, they obscure the fact that global climate governance is already polycentric, or rather: fragmented. This article argues that the more pertinent questions are how to sensibly link the different elements of global climate governance, and what the role of the UNFCCC could be in this regard. We examine these two questions for three aspects of global climate governance: international climate technology initiatives, emerging emissions trading systems, and unilateral trade measures. The article shows that there are strong arguments for coordination in all of these cases, and illustrates the possible role of the UNFCCC. It concludes, however, that possibilities for coordination will eventually be limited by underlying tensions that will plague any future climate governance architecture.

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Notes

  1. Christine Todd Whitman, former Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency in the Administration of George W. Bush; on 6 March, 2001. See http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,103985,00.html (Accessed 13 May 2012).

  2. Since 2005, tropical deforestation has emerged as a key issue in the climate negotiations under the heading of reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). See van Asselt 2012.

  3. Notwithstanding the growing traction that this term has gained in recent years, we argue that it is slightly misleading, and instead suggest ‘institutional complex’ (cf. Oberthür and Stokke 2011) as the more appropriate term. This accounts for the great diversity of institutions that currently make up the complex of climate governance and that do not only comprise regimes, but also several other types of institutions such as organizations, implicit rules and private–public arrangements (cf. Keohane 1989: 3).

  4. See http://wbcarbonfinance.org/docs/PMR_Brochure_v2.pdf (Accessed 13 May 2012).

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on an earlier draft, although any errors remain, of course, our own. Harro van Asselt would like to acknowledge funding by the European Commission’s Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship Programme (CLIMATEGOV—Contract no. 253090).

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van Asselt, H., Zelli, F. Connect the dots: managing the fragmentation of global climate governance. Environ Econ Policy Stud 16, 137–155 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10018-013-0060-z

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