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Reviewed by:
  • Transnational Climate Change Governance by Bulkeley, Harriet et al.
  • Abby Lindsay
Bulkeley, Harriet, Liliana B. Andonova, Michele M. Betsill, Daniel Compagnon, Thomas Hale, Matthew J. Hoffmann, Peter Newell, Matthew Paterson, Charles Roger, and Stacy VanDeveer. 2014. Transnational Climate Change Governance. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Climate change governance is at a crossroads. Traditional state-led processes have not yet generated an effective solution to combat climate change. In the meantime, myriad voluntary initiatives have generated much enthusiasm, but with unknown cumulative results. Despite this changing landscape of climate change governance, the vast majority of the academic literature continues to approach climate change as a “global commons” problem for which we need a state-based solution. Looking beyond that, the authors of this volume analyze the evolution, constitution, and meaning of the emergent system of cross-border efforts between state and nonstate actors to address climate change, which they term “Transnational Climate Change Governance” (TCCG).

They argue, in a nutshell, that TCCG is not a sideshow, but is having profound effects and transforming the system of climate governance. While the overview of TCCG structure, actors, and activities is interesting in its own right, their main contribution is the way they apply three theoretical lenses: agencybased, social and system dynamics, and critical political theory. These contextualize the empirical data in order to advance our understanding of the competing, albeit often complementary, efforts to address climate change, as well as of transnationalism and environmental governance more broadly. While this work will certainly help scholars and practitioners position themselves within the field, further analysis and reflection are needed to identify where we go from here.

The volume is built around detailed analysis of sixty TCCG initiatives identified by the authors. In light of a review of different typologies and their own questions, they coded the initiatives for criteria along six dimensions—arrangement type, history, level of institutionalization, issue focus, geographic distribution, and governance activities. Using this database, they identify trends, such as governance functions (information sharing, certification, etc.) of public, private, and hybrid TCCG initiatives.Most of the chapters walk through summaries of both the empirical data and theoretical perspectives on the various topics explored, such as the form of TCCG initiatives and theways that legitimacy and authority are established. Despite the authors’ care to include a diverse representation of initiatives, [End Page 136] it should be noted that they only selected those with English-language websites, so the trends may not reflect some regional and South-South initiatives.

The bulk of the book’s contribution to the literature is the rich theoretical analysis. For each topic the authors explore (form, issues, geography, etc.), they deploy the three lenses to provide reflection. The agency-focused perspective concentrates on the interests of individual actors and the need for filling particular functions within the governance system, as demonstrated by how climate politics has pluralized over time. The social and system dynamics approach views actors as embedded in a broader context, in which individual interests and actions are shaped by shared norms, institutions, and ideas. Finally, critical political theory focuses on structural elements that influence actors’ interests, incorporating poststructural elements of Foucault’s governmentality. Despite the perspectives’ complementary use, their differences provide a powerful illustration of why a unified approach to climate governance does not exist.

A noteworthy but not surprising finding that emerges primarily from critical political economy is the way the dominant neoliberal economic order has shaped the initiatives, emphasizing market-based and green growth solutions. The authors attribute this neoliberal environmentalism to the broader governance shift away from centralized state regulations and power, and toward decentralized authority and governance through partnerships with the private sector and civil society. This trend has also led to greater focus on balance sheets, which has seemingly shaped TCCG, as evidenced by the prevalence of marketdominant initiatives. Interestingly, even though evidence of this trend emerges several times throughout the book, the authors did not take it up in measuring the effects of TCCG.

When attempting to measure whether these initiatives make a difference, the authors reject both the ability to compare emissions data and our very inclination to do so. They provide robust reasons for not quantifying...


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pp. 136-138
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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