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Edited by James Meadowcroft, David Banister, Erling Holden, Oluf Langhelle, Kristin Linnerud and Geoffrey Gilpin

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What Next for Sustainable Development?

Our Common Future at Thirty

Edited by James Meadowcroft, David Banister, Erling Holden, Oluf Langhelle, Kristin Linnerud and Geoffrey Gilpin

This book examines the international experience with sustainable development since the concept was brought to world-wide attention in Our Common Future, the 1987 report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds engage with three critical themes: negotiating environmental limits; equity, environment and development; and transitions and transformations. In light of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals recently adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, they ask what lies ahead for sustainable development.
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Negotiating Climate Change

A Forensic Analysis

Aynsley Kellow

This book examines how an error in global meta-policy set climate change negotiations on an unproductive course. The decision to base negotiations on the Montreal Protocol and overlook the importance of interests, it argues, institutionalised an approach doomed to fail. By analysing interests, science and norms in the process, and the neglect of ‘interactive minilateralism’, learning was delayed until the more promising Paris Agreement was finally concluded, only to encounter a Trump Presidency, which (ironically) might offer further learning opportunities.
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Edited by Karin Bäckstrand and Eva Lövbrand

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Lisa Dilling

As it becomes clearer that the earth is ‘committed’ to a certain amount of climate change despite greenhouse gas mitigation activities, the need for adaptation policy has been increasingly recognized. However, the fact that climate will be changing in uncertain and potentially unknown ways makes it difficult in many cases to develop firm prescriptive policy recommendations based on the environmental conditions of the future. As a result, the question of what successful adaptation policy looks like is still very much debated. Theoretical studies have advanced several different concepts of adaptation and its counterpart, vulnerability. The adaptation literature has focused on identifying characteristics of the decision process that might be effective in a deeply uncertain, highly contested and contextualized arena, such as flexibility, ‘robust’ decision-making, barriers that obstruct change, adaptive capacity, risk tolerance, and limits to adaptation. The discussion of limits has provoked considerations of transformational adaptation, and how and in what circumstances such transformations take place. Simple prescriptions for policy such as ‘no regrets’ or ‘low regrets’ actions seem inadequate as a substitute for true climate adaptation policy—although certainly may provide a useful starting place. Fundamentally we might ask: what is needed for effective governance for climate adaptation given the range of worldviews about risk? Does climate adaptation pose different governance challenges than responding to already recognized risk and uncertainty? And, even more importantly, what should various publics expect from decision-makers as they proceed to govern in the face of climate change?

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Eduardo Viola and Kathryn Hochstetler

Brazil has been a major figure in global climate politics since it hosted the 1992 Rio conference where the first international climate action agreement was signed. Recently, its rising emissions and alliance with other emerging powers in the negotiations have helped to make it even more central. In this chapter, we argue that Brazil’s domestic climate politics is central to its participation in international climate negotiations. We show how a multi-faceted coalition of ‘Baptists and bootleggers’ grew inside Brazil through the 2000s, resulting in significant new acceptance of climate action at the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010. Brazil passed a national climate law and made its first international pledge to reduce emissions at the time of the international negotiations in Copenhagen. Since then, however, the coalition has fragmented, and Brazil has retreated. The national climate law is being implemented only partially and very slowly, as emissions have ticked up. This does not mean that Brazilian climate positions are exactly back to where they were a decade ago, but they show that gains in climate action cannot be assumed to be linear and locked-in.

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Chukwumerije Okereke

It is widely acknowledged that significant involvement of business is critical for the success of national and international climate policy. Despite this increasing awareness of the salience of climate change and its potential impacts, however, there is little so far in prevailing corporate carbon management approaches to strongly alter pre-existing carbon-intensive practices and induce radical societal transformation towards greener economies. This chapter proposes that the history of business climate strategies can be divided into four distinct if overlapping eras: (1) opposition, (2) reluctant support, (3) backtracking and (4) ambivalence. The chapter also reviews the utility of front running theories in explaining the orientation and changes in corporate strategies for climate change. Analysis suggests that an understanding of the complex interplay between competitive dynamics, societal and regulatory pressures that goes beyond narrow market or environmental management perspective is needed to explain the prospects and limits of global corporate climate governance.

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Esther Turnhout, Margaret M. Skutsch and Jessica de Koning

In the global climate debate, science and governance are intimately connected and co-produced. One way in which this is done is through carbon accounting. Practices of carbon accounting are not just technical and will have considerable governance implications as they are used to assess the performance of climate mitigation projects. This chapter outlines a theoretical perspective for analyzing carbon accounting as a technology of global climate governance. We use the example of forest carbon accounting for REDD+ to argue that carbon accounting creates a specific field of visibility that not only represents carbon but also functions as a site of political action. As such, we focus the attention on the productive forms of power involved in carbon accounting and the way these technologies simultaneously highlight and obscure specific forms of knowledge and connect and disconnect actors on multiple scales.

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Phillip Stalley

As the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, China is arguably the most important player in international climate change negotiations. Emphasizing its status as a developing country, China has traditionally demonstrated an aversion to legally binding emission limits. Arguing in favor of the common but differentiated responsibility principle (CBDR), which holds that developed countries bear the principal obligation for combating climate change, China has consistently avoided commitments while urging developed countries to increase the ambition of its own reduction pledges and financial assistance. However, over time China has made some key compromises, and particularly since the Copenhagen talks in 2009, China’s position has softened. Both China’s considerable investment in green technology and its expanding web of domestic climate change initiatives contribute to this change. Pressure from the international community, and especially from the developing world, have also added to the evolution of China’s climate change diplomacy. This chapter assesses the evolution of China’s position in climate change negotiations and highlights the key factors influencing its approach to international climate change politics.

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Mikael Klintman and Magnus Boström

This chapter gives an overview of the roles ordinary people, here called citizen-consumers, could play in relation to climate governance. Four roles are identified: (1) empowered citizen-consumers motivated by information about climate threats associated with their daily practices, (2) citizen-consumers acting within given structures set up to facilitate reductions of climate-gas emissions, (3) empowered citizen-consumers acting primarily on other motivations than climate concern and (4) citizen-consumers acting within given structures not set up primarily to facilitate climate-gas reductions, although such reductions may still take place. The four roles do not constitute a ranking list from insufficient to sufficient roles. None of these roles are perfect or ideal in climate governance, but will need to be combined. To be sure, this chapter argues that changing social policies and structure is likely to be more climate efficient than is changing individual attitudes. A more important point is that climate governance could be more powerful by looking beyond people’s climate intention and beyond structural changes specifically designed to reduce climate harm. By examining how people’s climate motivation may meet other motivations, scholars and practitioners of climate governance have a vast field of unexplored territory to examine and develop into novel types of governance.