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Reviewed by:
  • Democratizing Global Climate Governance by Hayley Stevenson, John S. Dryzek
  • Ayşem Mert
Stevenson, Hayley, and John S. Dryzek. 2014. Democratizing Global Climate Governance. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

In the aftermath of the failure that was the twentieth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 20) in Lima, Peru, how are we to imagine (let alone actually construct) a more effective as well as more democratic climate regime? There is little indication that the next COP in Paris will be any different; dissensus, contestation, and inertia characterize the global climate regime despite increasing popular interest and grassroots activism on climate policies. The authors of Democratizing Global Climate Governance seem fully aware of the need for inclusion and deliberation on policies of global warming. Not only do they provide a timely intervention to debates in IR relating to authoritarian and/or ecologically hostile responses to climate change, but they also provide compelling evidence that a UNFCCC reformed with deliberative ideals could be an efficacious starting point to address the climate crisis.

The book’s core purpose is to investigate how deliberative democratic governance can respond to the various challenges that humanity faces as the climate crisis deepens. To do this, the authors analyze the main premises and conditions of deliberation, particularly authenticity and reflexivity (as proposed by a long line of scholars working on deliberative models of democracy) and propose their inclusion in climate governance. This empirical work focuses mainly on the existing international regime on climate change and its various loci, thereby going beyond the UNFCCC. Governance networks, public–private partnerships, climate activism, and popular initiatives are studied systematically from a deliberative governance perspective.

Stevenson and Dryzek begin by problematizing claims that democracy is either not feasible or not desirable in global (climate) governance. First they discredit what they call “the authoritarian temptation” (p. 5–6): the suggestion that climate change is a super-wicked problem and therefore democracy must be put on hold for a while. They point to the necessity of democracy for effective problem-solving and the implausibility of global authoritarianism. They note that authoritarianism often results in less environmental protection and that reflective public opinion favors a stronger climate regime. Second, the authors question the arguments of mainstream governance and IR that object to democracy in the international system. While prominent democratic theorists and IR scholars argue that “democracy is something that can be an aspiration for the [End Page 184] states—but not for [the international system]” (p. 6), Stevenson and Dryzek argue that global democratic practices do not resemble liberal democratic systems, suggesting that representative democracy is not applicable on the global level. Various other democratizing practices—even those impossible in current liberal democracies—can nevertheless be operationalized at the global level, particularly when democratization is regarded as a matter of degree rather than as a binary (present or absent) choice. Furthermore, scholars of IR and governance have focused on concepts such as accountability and transparency in order to address legitimacy issues in global decision-making, only recently including deliberation in global democracy debates.

The empirical analysis is rich and deep. The authors focus on deliberation and the main components of a deliberative system: private, public, and empowered spaces; transmission across these spheres; accountability; meta-deliberation; and decisiveness. While the starting point is the international system and the UNFCCC’s potential for deliberative practices, later chapters focus on more diffused modes of authority, such as governance networks and specific public– private partnerships working on various aspects of climate change.

The book ends with several sensible and well-argued proposals to reform global climate governance, one of which is especially intriguing. The authors argue that particular nation-states and civil society organizations could represent particular discourses on a deliberative minilateral platform: “[I]t is possible to interpret non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and activists in their normal activities as discursive representatives” (p. 196). Although representing discourses in a deliberative platform might be a legitimate reform to democratize climate governance, there are two problems that the authors do not reflect upon. First, the assumption that a single actor can represent a particular discourse simplifies processes of identity formation around discourses. Discourse...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1536-0091
Print ISSN
1526-3800
Pages
pp. 184-186
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-29
Open Access
No
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