Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Climate Governance

Research Handbook on Climate Governance

Edited by Karin Bäckstrand and Eva Lövbrand

The 2009 United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen is often represented as a watershed in global climate politics, when the diplomatic efforts to negotiate a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol failed and was replaced by a fragmented and decentralized climate governance order. In the post-Copenhagen landscape the top-down universal approach to climate governance has gradually given way to a more complex, hybrid and dispersed political landscape involving multiple actors, arenas and sites. The Handbook contains contributions from more than 50 internationally leading scholars and explores the latest trends and theoretical developments of the climate governance scholarship.

Chapter 11: Fragmentation

Fariborz Zelli and Harro van Asselt

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


The global governance architecture for climate change has been increasingly marked by institutional fragmentation. A growing diversity of institutions seeks to address dangerous climate change today, including international organizations, club-like forums, multi-stakeholder partnerships, regulated and voluntary markets, subnational efforts and non-state actor initiatives. After taking stock of this fragmentation, this chapter briefly looks at possible theory-driven explanations for this phenomenon. We then touch upon potential consequences of fragmentation, including, for instance, more possibilities for experimentation but also considerable coordination and legitimacy gaps. In light of such negative implications, we argue that the UN process should hold a leading and coordinating position within this growingly complex institutional environment. This implies rethinking the role of the UNFCCC in future climate governance: instead of following a traditionally high regulatory ambition and further overburdening negotiations and agencies, the climate regime has to strengthen its profile as a complexity ‘manager’ or ‘orchestrator.’ We briefly illustrate how such an orchestrating role could look like for the case of international technology initiatives.

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