IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Policy implications

The discussion above implies that actors and actor coalitions are important and that there is increasing evidence of multi-level patterns of governance and transnational networks of influence on climate change and other global environmental issues. These networks join actors across organizational boundaries; business representatives and environmental non-governmental organization activists may join shareholders, government policy communities and scientists to promote (or stall) action (Haas, 1990; Levy and Newell, 2000; Fairhead and Leach, 2003; Paterson et al., 2003; Biermann and Dingwerth, 2004; Haas, 2004; Levy and Newell, 2005). Also, local and regional governments are increasingly active and may provide an invaluable testing ground and experience with mitigation policy in key areas, such as transportation (Betsill and Bulkeley, 2004; Lindseth, 2004; Bulkeley and Betsill, 2005). This suggests that policy-makers could do a number of things differently to promote understanding of climate change and agreement on policy responses to climate change:

  • Create ‘policy spaces’ for non-state actors, scientists, and experts to interact with government actors; actively facilitate interactions between experts and other stakeholders to build trust, understanding and support for action across a wide range of actors (Ostrom, 1990; Ostrom, 2000; Stern, 2000; Banuri and Najam, 2002; Ostrom et al., 2002). Such activity would provide benefits if built from the bottom-up (building on experience and viewpoints from an increasingly active municipal and community level set of response) and from the top-down (working across elites in government or in scientific/expert and other NGO circles).
  • Institutionalize opportunities for public debate and wider interactions within the public sphere on environmental issues (Renn, 2001; Bulkeley and Mol, 2003; De Marchi, 2003; Liberatore and Funtowicz, 2003). By creating the means for dialogue and collaboration to construct understanding about global environmental change, participants have the opportunity to formulate views – talk leads to value formation – which can ultimately generate public support for political action (Dietz and Stern, 1995; Dietz, 2003).
  • Encourage and facilitate local action and experimentation – where local communities have the potential to work more closely with affected stakeholders and tailor response strategies to the community’s values and norms (Cash and Moser, 2000). Local action on climate change interacts with governance and action taken at different scales (e.g., at national and international levels; Bulkeley and Betsill, 2005).

Domestic policy processes influence international policy opportunities and constraints on climate change (Fisher, 2004). Any domestic policy process will necessarily be working to develop a position with input across the range of actors, for example, market, state, civil society and science/expert communities (Hajer, 1995; SLG, 2001; Fisher, 2004). How this plays out will, to some extent, be influenced by different cultural and social biases in governance at the domestic level (e.g., whether science and business have a privileged role in the policy process; the access and influence of environmental organizations; how coalitions of actors across these groups interact with the policy process). On issues of global environmental change, scientists and other experts necessarily play a privileged role to advise governments (Jasanoff, 1990; Giddens, 1991; Beck, 1992; Yearley, 1994; Jasanoff and Wynne, 1998), forming what Haas (1990; 2004) has referred to as transnational epistemic communities or networks of influence. Given large uncertainties, global environmental change science argues for policy processes that give a central role to public deliberation about the issues – to facilitate common framings about the problem and eventual agreement on responses (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1993; Hajer and Wagenaar, 2003; Stern and Fineberg, 1996).

Ultimately, devising effective climate change mitigation strategies depends on good governance practices, which is the essence of sustainable development, for example, whole-of-government decision-making; synergies among economic, environmental and social policies; coalition-building; political leadership; integrated approaches; and policy coherence.