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

12.2.3 Changing development pathway requires working with multiple actors, at multiple scales

Over the past two decades, social scientists have observed significant changes in the role of government in relation to social and economic change. These include a shift from government defined strictly by the nation state to a more inclusive concept of governance that recognizes the contributions of various levels of government (global, trans-national, regional, local) as well as the roles of the private sector, non-governmental actors, and civil society (Rhodes, 1996; Goodwin, 1998). The emergence of these new forms of governance has been attributed to the need for new institutions to address the more complex problems of present-day society, among which global environmental risks figure prominently (Beck, 1992; Giddens, 1998; Howes, 2005). Ideology and economic globalization have also played a role in the shifting focus from government to governance. Command-and-control strategies are losing favour while market-based mechanisms, voluntary initiatives, and partnerships with non-governmental organizations have gained wider acceptance (Lewis et al., 2002). However, the shift to discussions of governance does not imply a reduction in the role of government. Governments remain central actors in environmental policy. They ensure the delivery of environmental protection to citizens, and help create the rules, norms, and many organizations that ensure environmental protection (Haas et al., 1993; OECD, 2001; Ostrom et al., 2002).

Recognizing the difficulty and limitations of trying to directly control their domestic economies in an increasingly open and globalized economy, governments now try to pursue economic growth through strategic policies. These policies are designed to increase access to foreign markets, encourage inward foreign investment, maintain national competitiveness, and obtain favourable outcomes from trade agreements (Jessop, 1997). While some believe that globalization has made national governments less powerful, others argue that rather than simply eroding government power, globalization has changed the ways in which governments operate and influence situations (Levi-Faur, 2005). On environmental issues, a strong case has been made for the need for government policy to ensure delivery of environmental protection as a public good (e.g., Liverman, 1999; Haas et al., 1993; OECD, 2001; Ostrom et al., 2002).

The three key institutional sectors– government, market and civil society – have begun to work in closer collaboration, partnering with each other in multiple and diverse ways when their goals are common and their comparative advantages are differentiated (Najam, 1996; Hulme and Edwards, 1997; Davis, 1999). This is not to imply that they always or even mostly work in partnership or have synchronous priorities: it mean that they now do so more often than they did, including in terms of global climate change mitigation (Najam, 2000). The nature of global governance on a range of issues, including on climate change, is today best understood not only as what states do but as a combination of what the state, civil society and markets do or not do (Najam et al., 2004).

The more prominent roles businesses and civil society groups have played in governance has not been without controversy. Some believe that only the state can act in the public interest, while industry and citizens are motivated by self-interest. Others see all actors as motivated by self-interest and, in this context, believe competition and the market ensure the best outcomes – public and private. In this view, civil society, consumers and industry bear greater responsibility and share the risks, while the state maintains a role in setting standards and auditing performance (Dryzek, 1990; Dryzek, 1997; Howes, 2005).

While the roles, responsibilities, and powers assigned to the respective actors remains a hotly contested subject, it is widely acknowledged that responsibility for the environment and sustainability has become a much broader project. It is no longer primarily the preserve of governments, but involves civil society, private sector, and the state (Rayner and Malone, 2000; Najam et al., 2004).