Climate Action

Living Edition
| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Forest and Climate Change Governance

  • Jelena NedeljkovićEmail author
  • Mirjana Stanišić
Living reference work entry


Climate change is “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (UN 1992).

Climate change governance refers to a wide scope of activities related to both mitigation and adaptation and requires their coordination between numerous sectors (Meadowcroft 2009; Keskitalo 2010; Fröhlich and Knieling 2013).

Adaptation is “the adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities” (IPCC 2007).

Mitigation is “an anthropogenic intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases” (IPCC 2007).

Forest and climate change governance is the process in which the role of forests in combating climate change is clearly recognized and emphasized.


Climate changes are among the most widely discussed phenomena affecting future economy and development in Europe and beyond. They are one of the most significant social, economic, and environmental problems today, and the risk of their negative effects is increasing (IPCC 2007). Its negative effects are noticeable in the increasing intensity and frequency of different natural hazards (floods and torrents, landslides, fires, heat waves, storms, etc.).

Complete understanding of climate change “as a global environmental and societal challenge is the central requirement of climate change governance” (Fröhlich and Knieling 2013).

The concept that enables joint effort against global environmental problems, such as climate change, implies an active participation of all stakeholders, establishes the rules for shared responsibilities, and strives to make efficient and effective procedures for addressing these issues at all levels is known as “governance” (Rhodes 1997).

Governance “signifies a change in the meaning of government, referring to a new process of governing; or a changed condition of ordered rule; or the new method by which society is governed” (Rhodes 1996).

In the broadest sense, it refers to “managing public affairs in a way that implies significant changes in the role of government (public) and non-governmental institutions, applying new procedures and redistributing political power in changed socio-political and economic realities” (Nonić 2015). It includes various institutions, organizations, and individuals: public enterprises, entrepreneurs, public administration staff, nongovernmental organizations, numerous other stakeholders, the media, etc. Governance concept leads to situation that “non-state actors are not only involved in the implementation of public policy, but often also in their formulation” (Baccaro and Mele 2009).

Thus, the shift from government to governance “refers to the decline of the classic command-and-control mode of regulation (in which public actors democratically selected by their national constituencies take decisions that are binding for everybody and then implement them through governmental agencies), and the ascendancy of a new system in which regulation is produced in participatory fashion by public and private actors collaborating with one another” (Baccaro and Mele 2009).

Forest Governance

On a global scale, due to the negative effects of excessive use of natural resources, numerous processes and initiatives for their preservation and sustainable management have been launched.

Forests and forestry have drawn the attention of the international public due to the concern for the sustainability of natural resources in terms of preserving biodiversity as well as economic and social contributions to the development of local communities, primarily from the United Nations (UN) Conference on Environment and Development (byname the Earth Summit) in Rio de Janeiro 1992. After the Conference, a process of international and regional conferences, initiatives, and processes focused on the sustainable use of natural resources was established, resulting in a number of international obligations and agreements relating to forests.

The implementation of governance concept, in all sectors, including in forestry, requires important changes in the way of managing, first of all, natural resources. Also, it is necessary to build a systematic approach, with clearly identified key problems, accordingly designed frameworks, organized planning, and process realization supported with result-based monitoring (Nonić 2015).

Forest governance was created in response to the changed role and responsibility of the government and other stakeholders. The change implied a new conceptual understanding of governance, where it is not exclusively within the competence of the state, so that the government is not fully responsible, but each of the stakeholders has a role in this process and with it a certain responsibility (Van Bodegom et al. 2012). It is defined as “the modus operandi by which people, stakeholder groups, and institutions (both formal and informal) acquire and exercise authority in the management of forest resources, to sustain and improve the quality of life for those whose livelihood depends on the sector” (FAO and PROFOR 2011). In addition, “instead of top-down, forest governance promotes the bottom-up approach in the decision making process” (Mutabdžija 2012).

In this sense, the governance in forestry (Fig. 1) is considered a concept that indicates the need to change the role of the state in the processes of forest management and is characterized by Mutabdžija (2012):
  • Participation of all stakeholders

  • Transparency in decision-making

  • High level of competence of public forest administration

  • Responsibility of political actors and decision-makers toward all the members of society

  • Rule of law

  • Low level of corruption

  • Efficient and effective management of resources

  • Fair distribution of benefits, with the aim of achieving sustainable management of forest resources and improving the quality of life of people who depend on forests

Fig. 1

Pillars and principles of governance. (Source: FAO and PROFOR 2011)

The first pillar includes issues related to policy, legal, institutional, and regulatory frameworks, in order to determine their existence, quality, clarity, and coherence and the extent to which they support adaptive forest management and facilitate effective and efficient implementation and avoid overreaching and unnecessary requirements. The components of the first pillar as well examine the consistency of forest laws with relevant international commitments and obligations. These components also include evaluation of the extent to which legal framework to support and protect land tenure, ownership, and use rights. In addition, these components address the issues of harmonization of forestry policy with wider development policies and strategies and the effectiveness of economic instruments of forestry policy such as financial incentives and equal distribution of benefits from forests (FAO and PROFOR 2011; Mutabdžija 2012).

The second pillar includes planning and decision-making in forestry and examining stakeholder’s participation, the level of transparency and accountability, and stakeholder’s capacity and action (FAO and PROFOR 2011). Here are analyzed “the responsibility and power of key stakeholders in forestry policy, the issue of resource allocation, and the potential and quality of participation of a wide range of stakeholders as well as their capacity to participate in the process of implementation of the concept of forest governance” (Mutabdžija 2012).

The third pillar addresses the issues of implementation and compliance with the political, legislative, institutional, and regulatory framework. The components of this pillar are focused on administration of forest resources (adequacy of staff capacity and effectiveness of agencies tasked with forest administration, effectiveness of collection, sharing and redistribution of forest taxes, royalties, charges, rents, etc.) and forest law enforcement (effectiveness of division of jurisdictional authority and responsibility for forest law enforcement, effectiveness of measures and tools to prevent forest crimes, effectiveness of incentives for officers and agencies to enforce forest laws, including investigation and prosecution, etc.). The components of the third pillar also examine the administration of land tenure and property rights (extent to which other government agencies, e.g., land, minerals, agriculture, transportation, communication, environmental protection, finance, etc., coordinate and cooperate with forest agencies concerning forests, effectiveness of compensation mechanisms when rights are extinguished, etc.) and cooperation and coordination (extent, appropriateness and adequacy of coordination and cooperation between national and subnational governments on forest-related activities, as well as within and among national agencies with forest-related mandates, etc.). Here are also examined issues related to measures to address corruption (implementation and effectiveness of forest-related procurement rules in the public sector, private sector participation in efforts to address corruption, including the adoption of code of conduct and ensuring transparency of payments, existence and effectiveness of channels for reporting corruption and whistleblower protection, etc.) (FAO and PROFOR 2011).

Good forest governance has the following characteristics (WB 2009; FAO and PROFOR 2011):
  • Stakeholder participation

  • Decision-making transparency

  • Accountability of actors and decision-makers

  • Robust institutions

  • Rule of law

  • High competence of officials and other functionaries who implement the rules

  • Willingness to address forest sector issues

  • Low levels of corruption

  • Predictability

In addition, good governance is linked to “efficient and effective management of natural, human and financial resources, and fair and equitable allocation of resources and benefits” (FAO and PROFOR 2011).

The accomplishment of good governance is “predicated upon mutually supportive and cooperative relationships among government, private sector and civil society. Although government is key, the private sector and civil society also play important roles in governance, with private sector generally understood to encompass for-profit business entities not owned or operated by the government, and civil society comprising groups acting voluntarily in their capacities as citizens to advance common goals and agendas” (FAO and PROFOR 2011).

Climate Change Governance

Climate change governance “requires action on two fronts: adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation implies the adjustment of society to a changing climate. Mitigation requires shifts in current behaviour to end practices driving further climate change” (Meadowcroft 2009). Thus, climate change governance can be described as a broad range of options of coordination concerning climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Governance of adaptation requires “knowledge of anticipated regional and local climate effects” (Meadowcroft 2009). It is one of the most important issues at international and European, as well as at national, regional, and local levels. Particular measures that can be taken include (Meadowcroft 2009):
  • A requirement for climate change impacts to be addressed in national, regional, and local planning processes (e.g., land use planning)

  • The preparation of periodic national and regional reports on adaptation and anticipated long-range adaptation costs

  • The establishment of regional- and sector-based adaptation forums with key stakeholders to explore impacts and responses

  • Collaboration with the insurance industry to identify vulnerabilities and take remedial action

  • The integration of climate adaptation into planning for protected areas and in agriculture and natural resource management plans

  • The incorporation of adaptation issues into work of research funding councils

Governance of mitigation requires, among other things, understanding of the political approach to this issue. Governments have a range of policy instruments that can encourage mitigation. These instruments are primarily regulatory (e.g., standards for raising the minimum energy demanding efficiency for industrial equipment) and economically (e.g., abolition of subsidies for the use of fossil fuels). The implementation of these instruments is less dependent on their design and more on the political will to apply them (Meadowcroft 2009).

Taking into account that climate change risks extend past territorial boundaries, mitigation and adaptation require multilevel, multi-actor, and multi-sector approach.

Decisions on mitigation and adaptation to climate change are made within the framework of multilevel governance (Rosenau 2004), which involve capacity building and the creation of different systems of cooperation with different stakeholders and alignment of interests at all levels. Multilevel governance is defined as “decision-making that is steered not only by public but by private and other interests, and as a process that takes place across multiple geographic scale levels and sectors” (Keskitalo 2010). The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) remains “a primary international forum for climate negotiations, but other institutions have emerged at multiple scales: global, regional, national, and local, as well as public-private initiatives and transnational networks. This institutional diversity arises in part from the growing inclusion of climate change issues in other policy arenas (e. g., sustainable development, international trade, and human rights)” (Stavins et al. 2014). Successful climate change governance means “the coordination of demands and needs across international, national, regional and local scales, as well as coordination between sectors” (Keskitalo 2010).

Strategies for effective climate change governance should include not only mitigation and adaptation measures but also technological development (to improve both adaptation and mitigation) and research (impact, adaptation, and mitigation). Such strategies enable a combination of policies that provide subsidies and activities at all levels, from individual citizen activities to national governments and international organizations (England et al. 2018). These can lead to the appearance of a complex set of overlapping and nested systems of governance between different actors, groups, and networks (Loughlin 2001). Multilevel governance in climate change is necessary, because of the “adaptation paradox,” which relates to local solutions for global problems.

Key stakeholders in the climate change governance are state institutions and organizations (government, ministries, and other state organizations), market participants (business organizations and enterprises), as well as organizations in the field of science and civil society (Corfee-Morlot et al. 2011; Gudurić 2013; Nedeljković et al. 2018). It must be noted that “the Paris Agreement (or more accurately its accompanying decision) expressly emphasizes the role of non-state actors, a term that broadly encompasses the private sector, sub-national governments, environmental and development advocacy groups, the faith community, trade unions, labour, academia, youth organizations, and civil society writ large” (Florini 2017). Taking into account the heterogeneity and the number of stakeholders in this field, the main goal of the state is, above all, “to build and strengthen the existing capacities of national experts and decision makers who formulate policy on climate change in their institutions, organizations and agencies, and representatives of the academic sector, industry, private sector, non-governmental organizations and the media” (Gudurić 2013).

Mitigation and adaptation to climate change sometimes require difficult and contradictory solutions, involving and cooperating with different stakeholders (i.e., multiple actors) from various sectors. Mitigation is the responsibility for various sectors (traffic, agriculture, energy, traffic, forestry, and agriculture). Adaptation is related to “health (urban heat island effect), water management and flood protection (precipitation, flooding and storm surges) and urban development (overheating, lack of aeration)” (Fröhlich and Knieling 2013). Taking into account both sector and actor variety, the success of climate change governance depends on the contribution of all involved stakeholders: local authorities, national governments, nongovernmental organization, private households, business sector, etc. (Fröhlich and Knieling 2013).

To understand the concept of climate change governance, it is necessary to take a look on a historical perspective of international commitments, starting at the beginning of the 1970s (Table 1).
Table 1

Global climate change governance (historical overview). (Source: Adapted from Moosmann et al. 2015)






Stockholm, Sweden

The UN Conference on the Human Environment (byname the Stockholm Conference)

The UN first major conference on international environmental issues and marked the foundation for global environmental governance

Creation of the UNEP


Geneva, Switzerland

The first World Climate Conference

The main focus of the Conference was global warming and how it could affect human activity


Toronto, Canada

The International Conference of the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security (also known as the Toronto Conference)

The starting point of international climate negotiations, since it initiated the drafting of a convention on climate change



Establishment of the IPCC

To this day, IPCC is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change



The first IPCC Assessment Report

“emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases” (Houghton et al. 1990)


UN General Assembly

Establishment of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) for Framework Convention on Climate Change



New York, USA


The text of the UNFCCC was adopted


Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

UN Conference on Environment and Development

UNFCCC was opened for signature



The UNFCCC entered into force

Currently, there are 197 parties (196 states and 1 regional economic integration organization). Parties meet annually at the Conference of the Parties (COP) to negotiate multilateral responses to climate change. The Conference of the Parties also serves as the meeting of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol. Its mandate is to keep under regular review the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol


Kyoto, Japan


The Kyoto Protocol was adopted as the world’s first greenhouse gas emissions reduction treaty


Marrakesh, Morocco


The Marrakesh Accords set the stage for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol



The Kyoto Protocol has entered into force

The requirement was to be ratified by at least 55 parties, including Annex I Parties accounting for at least 55% of Annex I Party emissions in 1990. This requirement was fulfilled in 2004, and the Kyoto Protocol entered into force on 16 February 2005


Bali, Indonesia

COP 13

The Bali Road Map, including the Bali Action Plan, was adopted, and it established the course for a new negotiating process to address climate change



The UN-REDD Programme

UN-REDD Programme was established by the FAO, UNDP, and UNEP. This program supports nationally led processes and promotes the informed and meaningful involvement of all stakeholders. The REDD+ initiative extends this approach as it includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries. Activities in the area of REDD+ are supported by the UN-REDD Programme. The Warsaw framework for REDD+ (established at the COP 19 in 2013) institutionalizes the support for REDD+ activities under the UNFCCC


Copenhagen, Denmark

COP 15

The Copenhagen Accord: Developed countries agreed to mobilize climate finance amounting to USD 100 billion per year by 2020, from public to private sources. However, by the end of the COP, parties did not agree on the Copenhagen Accord but took note of the document only


Cancún, Mexico

COP 16

The Cancun Agreements are actually a comprehensive package by governments to assist developing nations in dealing with climate change. In addition, the Green Climate Fund, the Technology Mechanism, and the Cancun Adaptation Framework are established


Durban, South Africa

COP 17

Parties commit to a new universal climate change agreement by 2015 for the period beyond 2020.

It was also decided to establish a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol


Doha, Qatar

COP 18

The second commitment period was agreed on as an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol known as the Doha Amendment.

The Doha Amendment has been ratified by 112 parties (as of 3 May 2018). As laid out in Article 20 of the Kyoto Protocol, the Amendment will enter into force when 144 (75%) of parties to the Kyoto Protocol have ratified it


Warsaw, Poland

COP 19

The result of this meeting is the Warsaw Outcomes, including a rule book for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and a mechanism to address loss and damage caused by long-term climate change impacts


New York, USA

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s climate summit

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon invited leaders from the government, business, civil society, and local leaders to a climate summit in New York in September 2014. During that event, several industrialized and developing countries announced mitigation targets, and some parties committed to contribute to the Green Climate Fund (Moosmann et al. 2015). These announcements were seen as a starting point for more statements to be made at the climate change conference in Lima and beyond


Lima, Peru

COP 20

The last COP before the Paris conference. At this meeting, the Lima Call for Climate Action was adopted


Paris, France

COP 21

196 parties of the UNFCCC agreed to combat climate change and unleash actions and investment toward a low-carbon, resilient, and sustainable future. The importance of the Paris conference lies in its aim to adopt a new agreement with legal force, taking on board all parties, to respond to climate change



The Paris Agreement entered into force

At least 55 parties to the convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have ratified it


Marrakesh, Morocco

COP 22

An important result of this meeting was to move forward on writing the rule book of the Paris Agreement. The conference launched the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action

IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UNEP United Nations Environment Programme, COP Conference of the Parties, FAO UN Food and Agriculture Organization, UNDP UN Development Programme, UN-REDD Programme United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

Based on the above, it can be concluded that at the global level, there is a very complex structure of agreements and actors involved in its formulation and implementation (Fig. 2).
Fig. 2

The landscape of agreements and institutions on climate change. (Source: (Stavins et al. 2014) Note: Lines which connect “different types of agreements and institutions indicate different types of links. In some cases, lines represent a formal agreement of a division of labour (e. g. between the UNFCCC and ICAO concerning aviation emissions). In other cases, lines represent a more simple mutual recognition (e. g. the accreditation of C40 cities by the UNFCCC). In others still, lines represent a functional linkage without any formal relationship (e. g. the relationship between the CDM and the NGO certification of carbon offsets). This is a rapidly-changing landscape and not all links may be captured” (Stavins et al. 2014)

All future efforts for international cooperation on climate change governance must take into account this diverse range of agreements and institutions. Besides that, “careful design of linkages and cooperative arrangements will be needed to manage the increasingly fragmented regime complex to prevent conflicts among institutions, avoid gaps or loopholes, and maximize potential institutional synergies” (Stavins et al. 2014).

Role of Forests and Forestry in Climate Change Governance

In Europe, in 2015, forests cover 33% of total land area and 215 million of ha (Forest Europe 2015). Forests have other important roles: economic (as source of raw materials and renewable energy), environmental (such as biodiversity conservation, soil protection, protection of water resources), and social (by providing so-called ecosystem services: recreation, health tourism, cultural, and religious functions).

However, climate change is “affecting the provision of these essential ecosystem services, with potentially serious consequences for human well-being” (Seppälä et al. 2009). Climate changes have influence on forest ecosystems, by “affecting tree growth and dieback, the distributions of indigenous species, the proliferation of invasive species, seasonal patterns in ecosystem processes, and the population dynamics of forest species; in some cases it has been implicated in species extinctions” (Seppälä et al. 2009).

Climate change is definitely an emerging topic in forestry sector, as they are one of the most significant social, economic, and environmental problems today and the risk of their negative effects is increasing. There is a global consensus that climate changes are a serious threat to forest ecosystems and “one of the major challenges forestry is facing in the twenty-first century and beyond” (Hanewinkel and Peyorn 2014). In recent years, almost all regions in the world have faced natural disasters (windbreaks, ice breaks, floods, hurricanes, etc.) that seriously affected both public and private forests.

On the other hand, forests play an important role in the global climate. They affect the climate through carbon emissions and sequestration. So-called forest climate tools (e.g., reducing deforestation and increased afforestation) should be incorporated in the set of instruments to combat climate change (Table 2). The average annual sequestration of carbon in forest biomass between 2005 and 2015 reached 719 million tonnes of CO2 (Forest Europe 2015).
Table 2

Examples of mitigation and adaptation measures in the forest sector. (Source: FAO 2011)

Mitigation options

Adaptation options

Carbon sequestration through increases in forests, trees, and forest carbon stock enhancement

Reducing vulnerability and strengthening adaptive capacity of trees and forests especially in fragile forest ecosystems

Afforestation, reforestation, and forest restoration

Increase of tree cover in farming systems (agroforestry), rural landscapes, and cities

Enhancement of carbon stocks and sequestration capacity through silvicultural practices

 Employing silvicultural techniques to increase forest productivity and carbon stocks

 Increasing carbon content of soil

Management of forest biodiversity

 Choosing more suitable provenances and promoting adaptable species

 Protecting mature forest stands

 Protecting functional groups and keystone species

 Protecting climatic refugia and most highly threatened species outside of their own habitat

 Avoiding landscape fragmentation and enhancing biodiversity corridors

Maintaining forest health and vitality to reduce vulnerability

 Pest and disease control

Improving fire suppression and control

 Integrated fire management on forested and adjacent non-forested land

Adjusting forest management practices

 Minimizing the risks of forest disturbances from sea level rise and extreme events (e.g., windfall, erosion, landslides, etc.)

 Species selection, soil preparation, planting, mixing, tending, thinning operations, etc.

Forest carbon stocks conservation through reduction of deforestation and forest degradation

Reducing vulnerability and strengthening adaptive capacity of forest-dependent communities

Addressing drivers of deforestation

Promotion of sustainable forest and land management

 Implementing reduced impact logging

Effective conservation of forested protected areas

Integrated fire management on forested and adjacent non-forested land

Pest and disease control

Reinforcing local coping mechanisms

Strengthening capacities of community-based organizations for improved governance

Diversifying forest-related products and employment opportunities

Substitution by use of wood products

Substitution of steel, concrete, aluminum, and plastic with sustainably produced and legally harvested wood products

Use of bioenergy based on sustainably produced wood to substitute for fossil fuels

Therefore, the role of forests in climate change governance is now widely recognized, at all levels, and (among other environmental protection mechanisms) is the subject of overall interest and support. In this regard, in Article 5 of the Paris Agreement, the direct impact of forests on climate change mitigation is highlighted, with the signatories pledging to “take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases, including forests” (UN 2015).

Taking into account the influence of climate change to the forestry sector, policy-makers and forest managers “need to consider responses to climate change in the context of the multiple goods and ecosystem services that forests provide to meet the diverse needs of a wide range of stakeholders” (FAO 2011).

This is why it is significant that the forest-related climate change strategies and plans are integrated into the existing forest policy framework and other sectoral frameworks affecting forests. This can help to “ensure that climate change goals are balanced with other forest sector objectives and that trade-offs are weighed and synergies captured” (FAO 2011).

In many countries, “forest policies and climate-related policies are the competencies of different sections of government and involve different groups of stakeholders and experts” (FAO 2011), as shown in Fig. 3.
Fig. 3

Institutional framework of forestry and related sectors for climate change governance. (Source: original)

At the national level, in many countries, there is no systematically organized reporting process between institutions and organizations from different sectors on climate change issues, which would be very important, firstly regarding the use of forest resources as renewable energy sources (Nonić et al. 2017). This implies that “the exchange of information across administrative and sectoral boundaries on issues around forestry and climate change is often limited” (FAO 2011).

In addition, climate change issues in many countries “have not been fully addressed in national forest policies, forestry mitigation and adaptation needs at national level have not been thoroughly considered in national climate change strategies, and cross-sectoral dimensions of climate change impacts and response measures have not been fully appreciated” (FAO 2011).

However, only if decision-makers and other stakeholders are “convinced that climate change may be a threat,” they can “successfully implement adaptation strategies” and be ready to “take forward-looking measures to avoid negative consequences in the future” (Yousefpour and Hanewinkel 2015).

It should be noted that “traditional forms of forest governance that focus on hierarchical, top-down policy formulation and implementation by the nation state and the use of regulatory policy instruments are insufficiently flexible to meet the challenges posed by climate change” (Seppälä 2009). These challenges that policy-makers in forestry are facing can be solved by “new and hybrid modes of governance that make greater use of policy networks, and by adopting a flexible mix of policy instruments” (Seppälä 2009). This is especially important if one bears in mind that “forest policies and climate-related policies are the competencies of different sections of government and involve different groups of stakeholders and experts” (FAO 2011). This indicates that the improvement of cross-sectoral coordination should be “the first step towards an effective, integrated approach to land use and land management” (Seppälä 2009).

Governance scholars assume that “effective adaptation to climate change requires new governance approaches that are able to bridge or even transcend governmental levels and societal domains” (Bauer and Steurer 2014). In terms of the forestry sector, all stakeholders are “actively seeking advice and new decision support tools to adapt their management strategies to expected climate change, reduce the vulnerability of key natural and human systems to its effects, and ensure continued health and productivity of forest resources now and in the future” (Sample et al. 2014).

In such a situation if sustainable forest management is to be achieved, “the goal of adaptation to climate change should be added to the existing economic, ecological and social goals” (Seppälä 2009). This requires engagement of different actions and the appropriate level of knowledge and readiness of different stakeholders: policy- and decision-makers, professional forest workers, private forest owners, and research and academia staff (FAO 2011). The significance of cooperation between different institutions and organizations of the forestry sector at different levels of governance is also recognized from the aspect of implementation of policies and strategies for climate change governance.

This implies that dealing with climate change is an issue that requires comprehensive, overreaching strategies, which are usually targeted out of the specific national forestry context.

Regulatory and institutional frameworks for forest and climate change governance in different countries are usually very complex. However, the need for integrating climate change issues into forestry and other related policies is most often clearly recognized and emphasized (Nedeljković et al. 2018).

The EU has been at the forefront of international efforts toward a global climate deal (EC DG Climate Action 2018). The EU and its member states are committed to limiting or reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under international commitments, in particular the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol (first and second commitment period), and the Paris Agreement. Before and during the Paris conference, countries submitted comprehensive national climate action plans (intended nationally determined contributions). These are not yet sufficient to keep global warming levels below 2 °C, but the agreement will help toward achieving this target.

The EU was the first major economy to submit its intended contribution to the new agreement in March 2015. It is already taking steps to implement its target to reduce emissions by at least 40% by 2030 (Table 2).

The main effect of the climate and energy package on climate change mitigation through forestry comes from the use of RES and the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) directives. Member states are committed to reach their EU-mandated targets set by the RES directive. They can:

carry out their own implementation levels (national, regional or local instruments, measures and policies) and apply measures of cooperation between one another. But in the end, they can be prosecuted under the European Court of Justice if they do not reach their target in 2020. Most Europeans countries are planning to meet their renewable energy targets mainly through the combustion of woody biomass: biomass consumption for energy production is expected to double by 2020, with 70% of biomass supply coming from forests (Baron et al. 2013).

In different countries, there are different institutional and organizational models related to climate change governance (Nedeljković et al. 2017).

As an example of such complexity, Table 3 shows institutional framework within the EU that is related to forest and climate change governance. Institutional frameworks for forest governance in the EU are defined according to the principle of subsidiarity. Forest governance, conservation, and sustainable use of forests are very important issues in the current common EU sectoral policies. Thus, these policies have a significant impact on member states’ forestry policies.
Table 3

EU internal commitments to combating climate change. (Source: European Parliament and Council of the European Union 2009; European Commission 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2016)



The 2020 package

A set of binding legislation to ensure the EU meets its climate and energy targets for the year 2020

The “20/20/20” climate/energy targets should be met (including an increase to 30% of emissions reduction if the conditions are right):

  Reduce GHG emissions by at least 20% compared to 1990 levels or by 30%, if the conditions are right

  Increase the share of renewable energy sources (RES) in final energy consumption to 20%

  20% increase in energy efficiency

The targets were set by EU leaders in 2007 and enacted in legislation in 2009. They are also headline targets of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth

Europe 2020 – A strategy for smart, sustainable, and inclusive growth

Puts forward three mutually reinforcing priorities:

1. Smart growth: developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation

2. Sustainable growth: promoting a more resource efficient, greener, and more competitive economy

3. Inclusive growth: fostering a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion

Sustainable growth – promoting a more resource efficient, greener, and more competitive economy

Priority theme: “Resource efficient Europe” to help decouple economic growth from the use of resources, to support the shift toward a low-carbon economy, increase the use of RES, modernize transport sector, and promote energy efficiency.

Europe must act:

  Combating climate change: Achieving climate goals means reducing emissions significantly more quickly in the next decade than in the last decade and exploiting fully the potential of new technologies such as carbon capture and sequestration possibilities. Improving resource efficiency would significantly help limit emissions, save money, and boost economic growth

  Clean and efficient energy: Meeting the EU’s objective of 20% of RES alone has the potential to create more than 600,000 jobs in the EU. Adding the 20% target on energy efficiency, it is well over one million new jobs that are at stake

EU climate energy package

Renewable energy directive

An overall policy for the production and promotion of RES in the EU. It requires the EU to fulfill at least 20% of its total energy needs with renewables by 2020 (more than double the 2010 level of 9.8%) to be achieved through the attainment of individual national targets.

Member states shall promote the use of renewable energy heating and cooling systems and equipment (Art. 13, par. 6):

  In order to exploit the full potential of biomass, the community and the member states should promote greater mobilization of existing timber reserves and the development of new forestry systems (point 24)

Each member state shall adopt a national targets for the share of RES consumed in transport, electricity, and heating and cooling in 2020 and measures to be taken to achieve those targets (e.g., national policies to develop existing biomass resources and mobilize new biomass resources) (Art. 4, par. 1)

Member states shall, where relevant, take steps with a view to developing a district heating infrastructure to accommodate the development of heating and cooling production from large biomass, solar, and geothermal facilities (Art. 16, par. 11)

Energy 2030:

A policy framework for climate and energy in the period from 2020 to 2030

Renewable energy must continue to play a fundamental role in the transition toward a more competitive, secure, and sustainable energy system. This transition will not be possible without significantly higher shares of renewable energy

An improved biomass policy will also be necessary to maximize the resource efficient use of biomass in order to deliver robust and verifiable GHG savings

Energy 2050:

Energy Roadmap 2050

The EU is committed to reducing GHG emissions to 80–95% below 1990 levels by 2050

Renewable heating and cooling are vital to decarbonization. A shift in energy consumption toward low carbon and locally produced energy sources (including heat pumps and storage heaters) and renewable energy (e.g., solar heating, geothermal, biogas, biomass), including through district heating systems, is needed.

In view of the EU’s longer-term energy and decarbonization objectives for 2050, the speed with which the EU deploys RESs will need to increase

EU forest strategy

Forest biomass is currently the most important RES. According to the National Renewable Energy Action Plans, biomass used for heating, cooling, and electricity would supply about 42% of the 20% renewable energy target for 2020. If this is achieved, the amount of wood used for energy purposes would be equivalent to today’s total wood harvest

One of the priority areas: Fostering the competitiveness and sustainability of the EU’s forest-based industries, bioenergy, and the wider green economy

Fourty two percent of harvested EU wood biomass is used for energy, accounting for about 5% of total EU energy consumption

According to the National Renewable Energy Action Plans, biomass will still be the main source of renewable energy in 2020

The Commission will, together with member states and stakeholders, (1) explore and promote the use of wood as a sustainable, renewable, climate, and environment friendly raw material more fully without damaging the forests and their ecosystem services, (2)assess the climate benefits of material and energy substitution by forest biomass and harvested wood products and the effect of incentives for using forest biomass in creating market distortions, and (3) develop objective, ambitious, and demonstrable EU sustainable forest management criteria that can be applied in different policy contexts regardless of the end use of forest biomass

EU heating and cooling strategy

The first EU initiative addressing the energy used for heating and cooling in buildings and industry, which accounts for 50% of the EU’s annual energy consumption

The strategy is a key action of the EU framework strategy and will contribute to improving EU’s energy security and to addressing post-COP 21 climate agenda

With 50% (546 Mtoe) of final energy consumption in 2012, heating and cooling are the EU’s biggest energy sector. Renewables accounted for 18% of the primary energy supply for heating and cooling in 2012, while fossil fuels accounted for 75%

Biomass is the most widely used renewable energy for heating today, representing some 90% of all renewable heating

Despite the compelling economic rationale, there are few attractive financial products for building renovation. The European Structural and Investment Funds will allocate (2014–2020) 19 billion € for energy efficiency and 6 billion € for renewable energy, notably in buildings and district heating and cooling, around 1 billion € for smart distribution grids, and funding for research and innovation. The Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme will allocate 2.5 billion € for energy efficiency and 1.85 billion € for renewable energy. Furthermore, due to the European Fund for Strategic Investments based on the EU guarantee, mobilization of at least 315 billion € of additional investment is expected.

The Commission invites member states:

  To work with stakeholders to raise consumer awareness of household energy efficiency aspects, and especially with bodies, such as consumer associations, that can advise consumers about efficient and sustainable forms of heating, cooling, and insulation

  As part of the Energy Union governance, member states’ national energy and climate plans should integrate the heating and cooling sector

The Commission will look into:

  Promoting renewable energy through a comprehensive approach to speed up the replacement of obsolete fossil fuel boilers with efficient renewable heating and increasing the deployment of renewable energy in district heating and combined heat and power

  Supporting local authorities in preparing strategies for the promotion of renewable heating and cooling

  Setting up a website with price comparison tools on the lifetime costs and benefits of heating and cooling systems

Within the Council of the EU, the Working Party on Forestry deals with the issues of forest policy, legislation, and processes at the international and EU level (legally binding EU-related forestry treaties, the EU Timber Regulation and Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Voluntary Partnership Agreements), monitors the processes of negotiating and signs contracts with non-EU countries related to the trade of illegally harvested timber. The European Commission is the executive body of the EU’s institutional system, and its work is organized by Directorate-General (a total of 33). Forest-related issues from the aspect of climate change are processed within seven directorates. However, five directorates have their primary objective climate change governance.

The Council of the EU (the Working Party on Forestry) deals with forestry and climate change issues in terms of strategies and policies. The Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development is the place of information exchange between member states and the European Commission and presents the activities of various Directorate-Generals (e.g., for agriculture and forestry, climate change, environment, etc.) related to climate issues change. Through its work, the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development cooperates with representatives of the states in the FLEGT system, in order to encourage national reforms in the management of forests and land, to improve the engagement of all stakeholders and to support the reduction of conflicts arising from the need to utilize natural resources by various stakeholders.

Integration of climate change policies into other sectoral policies (above all, forest policy) is needed at several levels of governance, as well as the coordination of policies of different sectors in order to effectively address climate change issues (Juhola and Westerhoff 2011). This approach is also necessary for the fulfillment of obligations undertaken by signing international agreements (the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, etc.) at the national level, as well as the objectives of the sectoral strategies and laws of both the forestry and other related sectors.

Sectors and areas related to forestry in terms of these issues are energy, nature protection, environment, sustainable, regional and rural development, agriculture, and water management (Seppälä 2009; Gudurić 2013; Nonić et al. 2017; Nedeljković et al. 2018).

Climate change adaptation forest policies “should not ignore the many drivers of forest change that originate in other sectors: developments in agriculture, energy (e.g. the growing of biofuel crops to replace fossil fuels), transportation, conservation and even macroeconomic policies can have dramatic effects on the incentives to destroy or degrade forests. Improving intersectoral co-ordination would be a first step towards an effective, integrated approach to land use and land management” (Seppälä 2009). Therefore, it is necessary to revise forest policies and strategies (FAO 2011), taking into account the need to create a compromise in achieving the goals of climate change mitigation and adaptation, both within the policy framework forestry sector and other related sectors.

One of the key elements in the implementation of forest and climate change governance is the sectoral allocation of public administration responsibilities, where the responsibilities of key organizations and bodies in the forestry sector as well as other relevant sectors should be clearly defined.

Future Directions

Climate change governance is “a cross-boundary, multi-level, multi-sectoral and multi-actor challenge with the specific characteristics of longevity and uncertainty” (Fröhlich and Knieling 2013). In this regard, the influence on various sectors, strategies, and actors has been identified, and the diversity of different perspectives and interests is being issued as its key feature. This implies that “that there cannot possibly be just one adequate form of governance, nor can there be just one ideological programme or one ideal policy, but rather a broad variety of approaches and solutions” (Fröhlich and Knieling 2013).

Forest and climate change governance creates demanding tasks for modern political and administrative systems. These systems “evolved to handle other sorts of problems and must now be adapted to handle emerging issues of climate change mitigation and adaptation” (Meadowcroft 2009).

In such circumstances, smart regulation takes place and proposes principles (Table 4) which should underpin policy design and ensure the “smartness” of the regulation (Van Gossum et al. 2012).
Table 4

EU forest and climate change governance institutional framework. (Source: original)


Internal organizational unit

Climate change mitigation and adaptation

Primary goal

Secondary goal

The Council of the EU

The Working Party on Forestry

Establishment and monitoring Timber Regulation and FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreements at the international and EU level

Other issues related directly to forestry and related sectors at the international level

Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development

The Standing Forestry Committee

Communication with the representatives of forestry institutions of all EU countries and the representatives of the EU Directorates, which influence the issues of forestry and climate change, through the application of their policies


Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs

Sector for raw materials, metals, minerals, and forest-based industries


Supports to replace nonrenewable energy sources with wood, by linking the exploitation of the full potential of primary and secondary raw materials, the development of small- and medium-sized enterprises and innovations, as well as Horizon 2020

Expert group on forest-based industries and sectorally related issues

Direct communication with the Standing Forestry Committee, as well as with representatives of the forestry industry, related to the development of the forestry industry, biomass sources, and reduction of GHG


Directorate-General for Environment

Expert group on forest fires

Fire monitoring, network implementation at the EU level


Directorate-General for Climate Action

Working group on forests as carbon sinks

identification, and proposal for implementation of various measures of forestry practices that have an impact on carbon emission, potential socioeconomic and environmental effects


Directorate-General for Energy

Directorate C Renewables, Research and Innovation, Energy Efficiency


Research, studies, and best practice examples related to the potential and use of biomass as a renewable energy resource

Directorate-General for Research and Innovation

Directorate I Climate Action and Resource Efficiency

Directorate F Bioeconomy

Research and programs related to renewable energy, environmental protection, efficiency of resource use, etc.


Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development


Financing projects aimed at reducing GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries

Smart regulation theory “proposes government intervention that is constrained by first, a range of market and non-market solutions and second, public and private orderings. The theory proposes a number of principles that help policy-makers to ‘smartly’ formulate their instrument design, ultimately generating an instrument design that will achieve the desired policy outcome” (Van Gossum et al. 2010). Therefore, one can expect more successful implementation of policy aims in situations when these principles are fulfilled. All these principles are paying particular attention on the formulation of certain policy instruments and offer recommendations which enable policy-makers to reach an appropriate solution (Van Gossum et al. 2012) (Table 5).
Table 5

Principles and indicators to evaluate “smart” instrument design. (Source: Van Gossum et al. 2012)



“Preferable state” of “indicator”

No perverse effects of other policies

Absence of perverse effects

Perverse effects are absent or small

Broad range of complementary instruments


A large diversity of policy instruments is used when this is needed to solve the problem


The instruments used have no negative effects on each other

Broad range of institutions

Regulatory pluralism

Existence of surrogate regulators


Government empowers surrogate regulators, when needed

Develop or use new environmental policy instruments (NEPI), when “traditional” instruments fail

Use of use new environmental policy instruments

NEPIs are used to improve the existing instrument mix

Invoke motivational and informative instruments

Use of motivational and informative instruments

Regulatees know the reason for the policy and the different instruments that are used to regulate them. In addition, they have enough knowledge and are motivated to implement the policy

Prefer less interventionist measures

Preference of less interventionist measures

Policy-makers started with the lowest possible intervention level

Ascend a dynamic pyramid

Instrument sequencing

More interventionist instruments can be used when less interventionist instruments fail

Big stick

Big stick exists and will be used when necessary


Win for regulatees

Regulatees perceive policy as an advantage for them

Win for government

Adequate monitoring and explicit benchmarks exist

“Smart” approach is needed because

such ‘single instrument’ or ‘single strategy’ approaches are misguided, because all instruments have strengths and weaknesses, none are sufficiently flexible and resilient to be able to successfully address all environmental problems in all contexts. For example, command and control regulation has the virtues of high dependability and predictability (if adequately enforced), but commonly proves to be inflexible and inefficient. (…) In contrast, economic instruments tend to be efficient, but, in many cases, not dependable. Information-based strategies, voluntarism, and self-regulation have the virtues of being non-coercive, unintrusive, and (in most instances) cost-effective, but also have low reliability when used in isolation (Gunningham and Sinclair 1999).

Thus, it is not only “desirable to use a broader range of policy instruments, but also to the match those instruments: with particular environmental problems; with the party or parties best capable of implementing them; and with other compatible instruments” (Gunningham and Gabrosky 1998).

Forest governance across the world showed a tendency to employ

mainly ‘command-and-control’ policy instruments. However, this approach is criticized for being inefficient, unnecessarily intrusive, unduly expensive to administer, perhaps inequitable, stifling of innovation, prone to enforcement difficulties and difficult to revise as new information becomes available. The so-called new environmental policy instruments, like price-based instruments, property right instruments, voluntarily agreements and motivational and informational incentives, are promoted as alternatives for the traditional command-and-control approach, especially by free market advocates (Van Gossum et al. 2012).

Socio-ecological resilience in the current changing climate conditions requires multilevel and multi-sector networks that will provide implementation of good governance. However, it is “not unusual for policy-making and governance structures and ecological systems to involve a mismatch of scales, such that the scale of environmental variation and the scale of policy and management responsibility result in disruption of one or more functions of the socio-ecological system. Resolving the scale mismatch requires institutional reorganization by creating governance structures that allow scalar flexibility” (Yusuf et al. 2018). It is “smart regulation” that provides needed flexibility.

Further research directions on this topic should address the proper mix of policy instruments for forest and climate change governance taking into account national, regional, and local contexts but also international obligations.



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of ForestryUniversity of BelgradeBelgradeSerbia

Section editors and affiliations

  • Dragan Nonic
    • 1
  1. 1.Chair of Forestry Economics and OrganisationUniversity of Belgrade - Faculty of ForestryBelgradeSerbia