Research Handbook on Climate Governance
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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.
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Chapter 15: Vulnerability

Tim Forsyth


Much previous research on climate governance and vulnerability has focused on reducing the risks posed by physical climatic events such as storms and floods. Increasingly, debates about governance now emphasize the diverse experiences of climate risk, and how definitions of ‘vulnerability’ also reflect assumptions about ‘impacts,’ ‘risks,’ ‘resilience’ and ‘adaptation.’ This chapter summarizes how climate governance is now diversifying these definitions and acknowledging more diverse drivers of vulnerability such as social and economic marginalization, especially in developing countries. But despite the highlighting of these approaches within the IPCC Working Group 2, much mainstream discussion of vulnerability to climate impacts—such as concerning proposed links between climate change and violent conflict in Africa—still focus more upon physical changes resulting from increasing greenhouse gas concentrations rather than social and political contexts. Debates about governance and vulnerability to climate change increasingly seek to acknowledge more diverse approaches to risk and resilience through activities such as greater stakeholder consultation. In addition, research on governance is focusing more upon questioning the assumptions made about risk within expert organizations and public policy debates.

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