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 46: Re-politicizing climate governance research

Ian Bailey and Piers Revell


In this chapter we examine a tendency within some aspects of climate governance research to prioritize universalistic theorizations of trends in climate governance and, correspondingly, to underemphasize how more localized and often adversarial political processes crucially shape the dynamics and outcomes produced by different forms of climate governance in different contexts. We begin by making the case that elements of climate governance research are developing an apolitical character, then discuss some drivers of this trend, including: pressures on academics to avoid contentious political debates in order to maintain dialogue with decision-makers; intellectual pragmatism fostering an inclination to explore reformist rather than radical transformations in climate governance; and academic conventions concerning the relative value of theoretically and empirically oriented research. We conclude by exploring some methodological approaches that might enable and encourage climate governance research to chart a productive course between theoretical advancement and more active engagement with the day-to-day political realities faced by public and private actors involved in governing aspects of climate change.

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