Non-State Actors in the New Landscape of International Climate Cooperation

This research programme consists of two interlinked projects, which focus on the role of non-state actors in multilateral climate diplomacy as well as non-state climate governance in the transnational arena.  

The programme departs from two seemingly paradoxical developments in recent years. At a time when UN climate multilateralism appears to be making little progress, non-state initiatives on climate change are thriving. This transnational climate governance experimentation has gained increased scholarly attention in recent years and suggested that it is time to consider climate activities ‘beyond the international regime’. At the same time, the non-state interest in the interstate arena is larger than ever.

Recent UN meeting have attracted growing numbers of non-state participants and governments have formally recognised the importance of such participation. Nonetheless, civic and private observers note that their access to the UN climate negotiations has become increasingly restricted. The research programme seeks to better understand these tensions by examining the interface between the intergovernmental negotiating process and transnational networks of business, civic, indigenous and local government actors.

The programme is organized around three research tasks. First, it studies the governance functions of non-state actors in multilateral climate diplomacy both within the context of the current UNFCCC review of non-state actors’ roles in the international climate change conferences and through the self-images of non-state actors and perceptions of negotiators and other actors. Second, it examines non-state actors' transnational governance experiments beyond the international regime and how these activities interact with the UN climate conferences. This is done through several case studies, such as the Clean Development Mechanism, REDD+ as well as arenas that are linked to international climate policy such as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20). Finally, we assess what implications our conclusions from the two first questions have on intergovernmental diplomacy, transnational governance, and global democracy.

In order to systematically examine the different actors’ roles the project employs several methods: surveys among participants at the international climate change conferences and their side-events, semi-structured interviews with key people within the UNFCCC Secretariat and representatives from states that have made submissions on the on-going review of the role of non-state actors, document analysis and observations of the negotiations. These results will then be interpreted in light of three current theories on transnational governance and non-state actors’ role in decision-making.

The combined results of the research questions will advance our understandings of transnational governance and non-state actors’ significance for governance, transparency, legitimacy, effectiveness and the symbolic value of international cooperation. The project will moreover contribute to our understanding of the role that intergovernmental diplomacy has for these organizations.

By combining empirical and methodological experience with theoretical expertise on global climate governance and democratic theory the project will seek to make new empirical and theoretical contributions with relevance for the international cooperation in the field of environment and development. The study will also develop an internationally unique database of questionnaires that are conducted yearly at the international climate change negotiations.

Duration: January 2012 - December 2014

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