Multilevel Environmental Governance

Multilevel Environmental Governance

Managing Water and Climate Change in Europe and North America

Edited by Inger Weibust and James Meadowcroft

The literature on Multi-level governance (MLG), an approach that explicitly looks at the system of the many interacting authority structures at work in the global political economy, has grown significantly over the last decade. The authors in this volume examine how multilevel governance (MLG) systems address climate change and water policy.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Inger Weibust

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental politics and policy, water, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, regulation and governance


Climate change is the most pressing environmental problem facing the world today; it represents the mother of all global collective action problems. Freshwater management, while not requiring a global solution, represents a ubiquitous problem. Worldwide, problems of water supply and quality are expected to be exacerbated by global climate change. A range of tools is available to address each of these problems yet they remain poorly managed, particularly in the case of climate change mitigation. The stumbling block is not an absence of technical solutions but, rather, political and institutional factors. Thus it matters how successful different forms of governance have been in tackling these problems. Policy studies, political science and public administration have all, in recent years, witnessed a turn towards governance, away from government, as the relevant object of study. Government implies, 'hierarchical decision-making structures and the centrality of public actors … the former denotes the participation of public and private actors, as well non-hierarchical forms of decision-making' (Kohler-Koch and Rittberger 2006, 28). There is a sense that policy making is now too complex and too messy to be contained within the vessels of elected governments and bureaucracies: No single actor, public or private, has all [the] knowledge and information required to solve complex, dynamic and diversified problems; no actor has sufficient overview to make the application of particular instruments effective; no single actor has sufficient action potential to dominate unilaterally in a particular governing model (Kooiman 1993, 4). National governments, in particular, have lost authority.