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  • Governing the Climate-Energy Nexus
  • Institutional Complexity and Its Challenges to Effectiveness and Legitimacy
  • Online publication date: June 2020
  • pp 1-18
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press


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The introduction first explains the rationale and theoretical and empirical contributions of the edited volume. The book seeks to address a considerable gap in knowledge of the nature of the relationship between institutions governing the climate-energy nexus in a multilevel context. In particular, there is scant research on consequences on the legitimacy and effectiveness of governance arrangements and the climate-energy nexus as a whole. For an in-depth analysis of institutional complexity in the nexus, we selected three policy fields as case studies: renewable energy, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and carbon pricing. We made this choice since the three cases represent urgent and major components of the climate-energy nexus, since they vary considerably in the number and mix of institutions that govern them at the international level, and since they differ in their positioning within the climate-energy nexus – with carbon pricing primarily a climate change issue, renewable energy lying at the core of energy governance, and fossil fuel subsidy reform falling in between. The chapter concludes with an outline of the ccontributions to the book, structured along the volume’s three parts on mapping (I) coherence and management (II), and legitimacy and effectiveness (III).

1 Introduction Governing the Climate-Energy Nexus

Fariborz Zelli , Karin Bäckstrand , Naghmeh Nasiritousi , Jakob Skovgaard , and Oscar Widerberg

Energy and climate change are fundamentally connected. In today’s world energy production and use account for two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions (IEA Reference Goldthau, Keating and Kuzemko2018). To curb the climate crisis and to meet the goals set out in the Paris Agreement, we need to provide reliable and affordable energy to some 10 billion people. This much needed transition to low- or zero-carbon societies would have profound consequences for the world’s energy systems (Lesage and Van de Graaf Reference Lesage and Van de Graaf2016).

Many steps have already been taken to bring this transition on its way, and they include an ever-increasing number of governance initiatives across borders. The success of this transition – and therewith the future quality of life on our planet – depends on how effectively and legitimately these various governance efforts achieve their goals, and this without undermining each other too much. In short, coordinated policy responses to limit climate change and decarbonize energy systems worldwide need to go hand in hand.

Against the backdrop of this urgent link between global climate change governance and global energy governance, this volume puts the ‘climate-energy nexus’ at the forefront. Both governance structures making up this nexus are highly complex (Sovacool Reference Sovacool and Falkner2013; Goldthau et al. Reference Sovacool and Graaf2018). Efforts to tackle climate change have increased significantly over the past twenty and more years, and they have expanded far beyond the multilateral response under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) (Vogler Reference Vogler, Davidson and Gross2018). These efforts vary from minilateral, local, and transnational initiatives to private regulation, technology agreements, and market-based mechanisms (Hoffman Reference Hoffmann2011; Hjerpe and Nasiritousi Reference Hjerpe and Nasiritousi2015). Likewise, governance efforts to address energy demands on the international level are fragmented, and even lack a core multilateral institution similar to the role the UNFCCC plays within the institutional complex on climate change (Sovacool and Florini Reference Sovacool and Florini2012; Wilson Reference Wilson2015; Van de Graaf and Colgan Reference Van de Graaf and Colgan2016; Sovacool and Van de Graaf Reference Sovacool and Graaf2018).

This fragmented climate-energy nexus may imply severe challenges for both state and nonstate actors to effectively combat climate change and transition to fossil-free energy systems (Falkner Reference Falkner2014). There is limited knowledge to which degree the fragmentation translates into (in)coherence, and what kind of consequences the degree of coherence has on the effectiveness and legitimacy of governance efforts. Apart from the number of institutions a range of other dimensions are also at play, including the kinds of actors involved, interpretations of core norms and distribution of governance functions (see Chapter 2; Biermann et al. Reference Biermann, Pattberg, van Asselt and Zelli2009; Eberlein et al. Reference Eberlein, Abbott, Black, Meidinger and Wood2014). One important aspect that has been sidelined in the literature is that governance in the climate-energy nexus is rarely governance of the climate-energy nexus in its entirety: Governance in the nexus mainly targets subfields focusing on specific issues such as renewable energy, carbon pricing, or fossil fuel subsidies.

This book aims to address this research gap and identify connections between the plethora of institutions and actors that address climate change and energy challenges within and across specific governance subfields. First, it provides novel mappings of the institutional complex of the climate-energy nexus as a whole and of the respective complexes governing three major policy subfields within the nexus – renewable energy, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and carbon pricing. Second, and based on this mapping, the volume analyzes the degrees of institutional coherence for all three subfields and studies to what extent there have been deliberate management attempts targeting the interlinkages between institutions. Third and finally, the consequences of the multifaceted institutional complex in the climate-energy nexus are examined by asking how the institutional complexity affects perceptions of effectiveness and legitimacy across the selected subfields.

The next three sections explain the rationale and theoretical and empirical contributions of the edited volume and our motivation to select three specific policy subfields as case studies. The introduction concludes with an outline of the chapters, structured along the book’s three parts on mapping, coherence and management, and legitimacy and effectiveness.

1.1 Rationale behind This Book

A defining feature of global environmental governance today is the patchwork of overlapping institutions with varying forms and functions that govern different aspects of environmental challenges (cf. Young Reference Young1996; Oberthür Reference Oberthür2009; Zelli and van Asselt Reference Zelli and Asselt2013; van Asselt and Zelli Reference van Asselt and Zelli2014; Heubaum and Biermann Reference Heubaum and Biermann2015; Pattberg and Widerberg Reference Pattberg and Widerberg2015; Boas et al. Reference Boas, Biermann and Kanie2016). A case in point is the intersection of global climate and energy governance.

International, transnational and nonstate action to mitigate climate change has proliferated in number and scope in the lead-up to the Paris Agreement (Bulkeley et al. Reference Bulkeley, Andonova, Betsill, Compagnon, Hale, Hoffmann, Newell, Paterson, Roger and VanDeveer2014; Jordan et al. Reference Jordan, Huitema, Hildén, van Asselt, Rayner, Schoenefeld and Boasson2015; Bäckstrand et al. Reference Bäckstrand, Kuyper, Linnér and Lövbrand2017; van Asselt and Zelli Reference van Asselt, Zelli, Jordan, Huitema, van Asselt and Foster2018). For instance, the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) online portal,Footnote 1 maintained by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, has identified more than seventy cooperative initiatives involving governments (of which more than twenty specifically target energy), in addition to thousands of nonstate and subnational climate actions.

At the same time, national sovereignty concerns have left multilateral cooperation on energy without a central or focal institution similar to the UNFCCC in climate governance (Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen Reference Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen2010; Sovacool and Florini Reference Sovacool and Florini2012; Barnsley and Ahn Reference Barnsley and Ahn2014; Wilson Reference Wilson2015; Van de Graaf and Colgan Reference Van de Graaf and Colgan2016; Sovacool and Van de Graaf Reference Sovacool and Graaf2018). As current energy systems are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, transformation in the consumption and production of energy in major emitter states, across developing and developed countries, is a key in setting the world on a low-carbon path (Goldthau and Witte Reference Goldthau and Witte2010; Cherp et al. Reference Cherp, Jewell and Goldthau2011; Dubash and Florini Reference Dubash and Florini2011; Nasiritousi Reference Nasiritousi2017; IEA 2018). Hence, the socioeconomic and biophysical interactions between climate and energy are very strong.

In this volume, three central issues at the intersection of climate and energy governance have been selected: renewable energy, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and carbon pricing. Comparing these three policy areas, it can be observed that they are characterized by multiple governance institutions and a patchwork of actors, rules, and decision-making processes (Van de Graaf and Colgan Reference Van de Graaf and Colgan2016; Sanderink et al. Reference Sanderink, Widerberg, Kristensen and Pattberg2017). Renewable energy, to take one example, is discussed not only within the United Nations (UN), but also in technology partnerships and international organizations such as the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), the Climate Technology Initiative (CTI), Energy +, and in a number of private–public partnerships and private initiatives such as the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) (Widerberg and Pattberg Reference Widerberg and Pattberg2015; Sanderink et al. Reference Sanderink, Widerberg, Kristensen and Pattberg2017; Sovacool and Van de Graaf Reference Sovacool and Graaf2018). Many of these institutions have overlapping mandates and memberships among governments and nongovernmental actors, while exercising different governance functions (Keohane and Victor Reference Keohane and Victor2011; see also Biermann et al. Reference Biermann, Pattberg, van Asselt and Zelli2009).

Institutional complexity in general as well as the relationship between climate and energy governance in particular are attracting growing interest among scholars (e.g. Bäckstrand Reference Bäckstrand2008; Zelli Reference Zelli2011; Van de Graaf Reference Van de Graaf2013; Widerberg and Stenson Reference Widerberg and Stenson2013; van Asselt Reference van Asselt2014; Falkner Reference Falkner, Goldthau, Keating and Kuzemko2018; Goldthau et al. Reference Goldthau, Keating and Kuzemko2018). Their research has shown that the increasing number of partnerships in climate and energy governance has contributed to the fragmentation of the institutional landscape (Biermann Reference Biermann, Pattberg, van Asselt and Zelli2009; Van de Graaf Reference Van de Graaf2013; Zelli et al. Reference Zelli and Asselt2013; Jordan et al. Reference Jordan, Huitema, Hildén, van Asselt, Rayner, Schoenefeld and Boasson2015). Terms such as ‘regime complex’ (Keohane and Victor Reference Keohane and Victor2011), ‘polyarchy’ (Ostrom Reference Ostrom2010), ‘fragmented governance architectures’ (Biermann et al. Reference Biermann, Pattberg, van Asselt and Zelli2009), and ‘climate anarchy’ (Dyer Reference Dyer2014) equally reflect this development in current global environmental governance. And significant research efforts have demonstrated that this complexity also marks the intersections between policy domains, for instance, between the global governance of climate change and other policy areas such as trade (e.g. Charnovitz Reference Charnovitz2003; van Asselt Reference van Asselt2014), biodiversity (e.g. Jacquemont and Caparrós Reference Jacquemont and Caparrós2002), or development and security (e.g. Moncel and van Asselt Reference Moncel and van Asselt2012).

Beyond the institutional complexity literature, the book also contributes to discussions around various ‘nexuses’ in public policy objectives. Over the past fifteen years, the nexus concept has become a popular way to illustrate connectivity between various policy fields. The ‘water-food-energy’ nexus has been a particular focus of attention (e.g. Hoff Reference Hoff2011) but other combinations abound. The nexus concept has been used to connect just about any policy field, including, to name but a few, climate change, gender, health, poverty, education, and agriculture (e.g. Clancy et al. Reference Clancy, Skutsch and Batchelor2002; Iguchi et al. Reference Iguchi, Ehara, Yamazaki, Tasaki and Abe2014). Thinking in terms of nexuses among policy fields – instead of individual policy fields – is expected to generate insight into trade-offs and synergies between various policy decisions, or, as the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (2014, 4) puts it: a nexus approach ‘forces us to think of the impacts a decision in one sector can have not only on that sector, but on others. Anticipating potential trade-offs and synergies, we can then design, appraise and prioritise response options that are viable across different sectors’. Policies to address climate change using forests as carbon sinks, for instance, may have impacts on biodiversity, agriculture, and water and they require decision makers to take an integrated approach toward sustainability challenges. For researchers studying a nexus, enhancing policy coherence is hence key to reap the benefits of potential synergies and mitigate negative effects across various policy goals (Munaretto and Witmer Reference Munaretto and Witmer2017).

The achievements of these different literatures on climate change, energy, complexity, and nexuses notwithstanding, there are several research questions that have not been comprehensively addressed so far. First, there are few attempts to analyze the nexus between climate change and energy by comparing the institutional complexes for specific subfields (e.g. Bazilian et al. Reference Bazilian, Hobbs, Blyth, MacGill and Howells2011; Sovacool Reference Sovacool2011; Bradshaw Reference Bradshaw2014; Falkner Reference Falkner2014, Reference Falkner, Goldthau, Keating and Kuzemko2018; Van de Graaf and Colgan Reference Van de Graaf and Colgan2016). Second, while all studies share the starting assumption that institutional complexity matters, there are no systematic comparative analyses about how exactly it may affect the effectiveness or legitimacy of individual institutions or entire institutional complexes, or how certain actors may benefit or be disadvantaged in a complex governance architecture (Andresen and Hey Reference Andresen and Hey2005; Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen and McGee Reference Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen and McGee2013; Bäckstrand et al. Reference Bäckstrand, Zelli, Schleifer, Jordan, Huitema, van Asselt and Foster2018; Sovacool and Van de Graaf Reference Sovacool and Graaf2018). Third, in empirical terms, the scholarship on institutional interactions has mostly provided insights into dyadic relationships between two international regimes or public institutions composed by national governments (Oberthür and Gehring Reference Oberthür and Gehring2006; Chambers Reference Chambers2008; Young et al. Reference Young, Chambers, Kim and ten Have2008; Gehring and Oberthür Reference Gehring and Oberthur2009; Oberthür and Stokke Reference Oberthür and Stokke2011), while placing less emphasis on broader governance interactions that also include hybrid, private, and informal institutions (Heubaum and Biermann Reference Heubaum and Biermann2015; Sanderink et al. Reference Sanderink, Widerberg, Kristensen and Pattberg2017).

In summary, there is a gap in knowledge of the nature of the relationship between institutions governing the climate-energy nexus in a multilevel context as well as the implications of that institutional complexity. This book seeks to address these gaps.

1.2 Objectives and Contribution: Analyzing the Climate-Energy Nexus

The aim of this volume is to comprehensively map, critically analyze, and compare a wide range of interactions among intergovernmental and transnational institutions across three policy fields in the climate-energy nexus.

Conceptually, this book advances the research frontier in the scholarship on institutional complexity and fragmentation (Zelli and van Asselt Reference Zelli and Asselt2013) by zooming in on governance interaction and policy integration between state and nonstate actors. The linkages between institutions are conceptualized along four evaluative themes and their respective dimensions: (1) coherence and (2) management of institutional complexes as well as their consequences for the (3) legitimacy and (4) effectiveness of institutions within institutional complexes.

Empirically, the contributions to this book break important new ground, as they provide novel findings on the institutional complexes that govern three central policy domains: renewable energy, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and carbon pricing.

Theoretically, the book explores how the position of a policy field in a nexus may influence the degree of complexity between institutions.

The following research questions guide this book:

  • Mapping: What is the institutional structure addressing the climate-energy nexus? Which types of institutions and actors are involved, which governance functions do they perform, and which specific policy field (e.g. renewable energy) do they address?

  • Coherence and Management: Are the relations between institutions in different subsets of the climate-energy nexus conflictive or synergistic? To what extent are there convergence, divergence or governance gaps with regard to overarching norms, governance functions, and membership? Are there deliberate attempts to address shortcomings of cross-institutional relations by certain actors?

  • Legitimacy and Effectiveness: What do the interactions between various institutions in global climate and energy governance mean for the legitimacy, legitimation, and effectiveness of individual institutions and the climate-energy nexus as whole?

We address these questions in three consecutive parts: In Part I, we introduce the conceptual and analytical framework and provide comprehensive mappings of the institutional structure of the climate-energy nexus as a whole. Part II provides in-depth analyses on the coherence and management of three policy domains of the climate-energy nexus: those addressing renewable energy, the phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies, and carbon pricing. Part III presents comparative studies that examine whether, and in which ways, different types of institutions working in the same policy field are perceived as legitimate or effective.

Across these three parts, the analyses build on a mixed-methods approach, including content analysis, network analysis, surveys, and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and experts. Moreover, all three parts provide a multi-level governance perspective on the climate-energy nexus. While the book departs from an analysis of the global governance of the nexus, several chapters examine roles and perceptions at the domestic and sub-state levels. On the one hand, preferences of member states (such as China, USA, EU) and energy industry actors set the agenda for global institutions. On the other hand, governments and stakeholders are affected by the high level of institutional complexity of global climate and energy governance. Some actors are better equipped than others to navigate the complex institutional system and, likewise, their perceptions of the legitimacy and effectiveness of certain institutions may differ considerably.

1.3 Three Case Studies: Renewable Energy, Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform, and Carbon Pricing

We selected three policy subfields within the climate-energy nexus based on three main criteria. The first of these is the urgency and importance of each subfield in decarbonizing energy systems and combating climate change.

The subfield of renewable energy is key for a sustainable future, as the global uptake of renewable energy plays a central role in the decarbonization of global energy systems (Röhrkasten Reference Röhrkasten, Davidson and Gross2018). As Chapter 4 by Sanderink lays out in further detail, renewable energy is crucial for addressing three closely connected energy goals simultaneously: to provide energy security by satisfying increasing energy demand; to ensure worldwide energy access, with currently 1.1 billion people not having access to electricity; and to tackle negative environmental externalities associated with today’s energy systems, with climate change being arguably the most important of these.

Fossil fuel subsidy reform (FFSR) covers the complex of institutions that seek to rationalize and phase out inefficient subsidies in the medium term (Chapter 5 by Verkuijl and van Asselt). Such subsidies potentially lock in an unsustainable fossil fuel infrastructure for years to come. According to estimates, more than a third of carbon emissions between 1980 and 2010 were driven by fossil fuel subsidies (Stefanski Reference Stefanski2016), and phasing them out could at least reduce carbon emissions by 10 per cent (UNEP 2018).

The rationale of the subfield of carbon pricing is that climate change is best mitigated by giving emitters an incentive to reduce emissions through price signals, with the decision of how to reduce emissions best left to the market (Chapter 6 by Skovgaard and Canavan). With a few exceptions, emissions covered by carbon pricing arise from energy use (within industry, transportation and power generation), and carbon prices therefore help direct the choice of fuels away from emissions-intensive ones.

Second, as Chapters 46 demonstrate, these three policy subfields vary considerably in the number and mix of institutions that govern them at the international level. With this cross-case variation as a second selection criterion, the book provides an insightful comparison of the very different institutional complexes, their coherence and management, and the various consequences for legitimacy and effectiveness.

The renewable energy subfield is governed by a wide range of different institutions, including intergovernmental organizations alongside private institutions and multi-stakeholder partnerships. This notwithstanding, the subfield is still dominated by national policy-making as nation states continue to have sovereign control over the energy domain. By contrast, the carbon pricing subfield is predominantly governed on the international level and the respective institutional complex exhibits a medium number of public, private, and hybrid institutions. Membership in the few existing international FFSR institutions, finally, is heavily skewed toward public institutions, while the role of private and hybrid institutions is limited for this subfield.

A third and final case-selection criterion relates to the variation within the thematic structure in which a problem or policy field is embedded. In this volume, the climate-energy nexus constitutes this structure. In other words, we take into account the position of a policy subfield within the climate-energy nexus. Positioning is here understood as the degree to which the theme of a sub-field is defined as a climate or energy problem, as well as the extent to which policy measures within the field (intentionally or not) influence carbon emissions and energy use.

The three selected policy fields indeed differ in their positioning within the climate-energy nexus. Carbon pricing is mainly related to climate change, since the notion of pricing carbon emissions is based on the definition of climate change as a policy problem. This said, while carbon pricing only aims to address climate mitigation, it mainly targets emissions from energy use (Métivier et al. Reference Métivier, Postic, Alberola and Vinnakota2018; Postic and Métivier Reference Postic and Métivier2019), and induces less energy consumption and a shift from high emission to lower emission energy sources. Fossil fuel subsidy reform is arguably as much a climate change policy problem as an energy issue. The subsidies as such target energy use, but fossil fuel subsidy reform is increasingly defined as a climate mitigation instrument (Terton et al. Reference Terton, Gass, Merrill, Wagner and Meyer2015; Jewell et al. Reference Jewell, McCollum, Emmerling, Bertram, Gernaat, Krey, Paroussos, Berger, Fragkiadakis, Keppo, Saadi, Tavoni, van Vuuren, Vinichenko and Riahi2018; Van de Graaf and Blondeel Reference Van de Graaf, Blondeel, Skovgaard and van Asselt2018). Finally, renewable energy is rooted in the energy domain, alhough one of the main purposes of promoting renewable energy is reducing carbon emissions.

The positioning of the policy fields within the climate-energy nexus matters, inter alia, due to the different governance architectures addressing climate change and energy. Whereas climate change is governed by a fragmented system with one central institution, the UNFCCC (Biermann et al. Reference Biermann, Pattberg, van Asselt and Zelli2009), energy is governed by a fragmented and decentralized governance architecture without one central institution (Van de Graaf and Colgan Reference Van de Graaf and Colgan2016). Consequently, renewable energy operates further from the gravitational influence of the UNFCCC than fossil fuel subsidy reform and especially carbon pricing.

In the conclusions, this problem-structural argument and selection criterion will be revisited. We will discuss to what extent the different nature of the three problems is mirrored in different institutional architectures and different consequences for legitimacy and effectiveness.

Having introduced our rationale behind selecting the three policy subfields, we like to make one important qualification: the delineation of a governance problem or policy field has an unavoidable element of construction to it, since it depends on how the observers define the overarching norm, goal, or essence of the field in question. In formulating the core norms for each of the three subfields (see Chapters 46 for elaborate definitions of the respective norms), the authors therefore made necessary subjective assessments of what counts as a subfield within the climate-energy nexus.

1.4 Structure of the Book

1.4.1 Mapping the Climate-Energy Nexus

Part I consists of two chapters that provide analytical guidance and overarching empirical mappings. Chapter 2, by Zelli, Nasiritousi, Bäckstrand, Pattberg, Sanderink, Skovgaard, van Asselt, and Widerberg, introduces the overarching analytical framework for this book. The chapter first establishes our understanding of key terms such as institutions, institutional complex, nexus, and global governance. In a second step, it distinguishes three analytical levels for investigating institutional complexity: the macro level, which captures the overarching institutional fragmentation for a given field or domain of global governance; the meso level, which zooms into specific subfields of such a domain and the institutional complexes thereof; and the micro level, which exhibits interlinkages among two individual institutions on specific questions.

Chapter 2 then establishes the four evaluative themes that are employed in Parts II and III: coherence, management, legitimacy, and effectiveness. For each of these themes a series of dimensions is introduced to guide the examination of the meso and micro levels of a policy field. Coherence among institutions, for instance, is conceptualized in terms of: adherence to and interpretation of an overarching core norm for the policy field, coverage and distribution of memberships (private, public, hybrid), coverage and distribution of governance functions (standards and commitments, operational activities, information and networking, financing), and mechanisms underlying cross-institutional relations (cognitive, normative, behavioural). Legitimacy, to give another example, is to be assessed along nine dimensions, among them expertise, transparency, accountability, procedural fairness and distributive fairness. Altogether, the four themes and their dimensions make up a novel framework for an in-depth analysis of a governance nexus, such as the one on energy and climate change. They help us examine a variety of important questions in a comparative research design, combining a high level of ambition with feasibility and novelty.

Chapter 3, by Sanderink, Pattberg, and Widerberg, provides an innovative institutional mapping of the climate-energy nexus as a whole by applying the coherence dimensions of the analytical framework. The mapping presents a newly built database and novel methodology to identify intergovernmental or transnational institutions with a direct objective to steer society in various directions in terms of energy and climate change. It uses a ‘governance triangle’ developed by Abbott and Snidal (Reference Abbott, Snidal, Mattli and Woods2009) to categorize the various institutions depending on their constitutive members and other institutional characteristics such as governance functions and thematic focus. The results show nearly 110 institutions in the climate-energy nexus, comprising more than 13,000 members, including public, private, and civil society actors, of which more than 8,000 are cities. The chapter also offers a network analysis of the nexus, demonstrating the tight web of institutions connected by primarily public actors and the centrality of the European Union and a few countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, within that web.

Chapter 3 also provides the empirical basis for the further analyses in the subsequent chapters: it zooms in on the institutional constellations of the three subfields of renewable energy, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and carbon pricing. Similar to the analysis of the nexus as a whole, the chapter highlights for each of these subfields the constitutive characteristics of the respective institutions and the governance functions they perform. The results are first insights into the differences, commonalities, and varying degrees of complexity across the three institutional complexes. In sum, the chapter provides the first step in creating a knowledge base to guide actors that aim to navigate the institutionally complex global climate and energy governance system.

1.4.2 Coherence and Management in the Climate-Energy Nexus

Part II of the book zooms in on the three subfields and applies the analytical framework’s dimensions of coherence and management.

Chapter 4 by Sanderink examines coherence and management for the renewable energy subfield. After introducing the central role of renewables in the global energy transition, the chapter presents the wide array of forty-six public, private, and public–private institutions that currently govern the subfield. These include intergovernmental organizations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA) and IRENA, but also private initiatives and multi-stakeholder partnerships such as RE100 and REN21. These various institutions not only differ in terms of their institutional characteristics but also with regard to the energy sources and technologies they cover, the governance functions they perform, and the energy-related objectives they prioritize.

Following this analysis of the meso level, the chapter concentrates on three multi-stakeholder partnerships to determine micro-level coherence and identify inter-institutional management attempts: the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), REN21, and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL). This assessment is based on a thorough analysis of the institutional characteristics of the selected partnerships, a qualitative review of their official documents, and semi-structured interviews with the experts involved. The result is a detailed overview of the institutional overlaps and differences, various interaction mechanisms, and several management attempts between and beyond these institutions. Based thereon, Chapter 4 concludes to what extent renewable energy subfield can be characterized in terms of categories such as division of labour, synergy, coexistence, or competition.

In Chapter 5, Verkuijl and van Asselt examine coherence and management across the institutional complex of fossil fuel subsidy reform. By reducing carbon emissions and enabling the redirection of public funds into areas such as health, education, and renewable energy, the reform of subsidies for the production and consumption of fossil fuels can support the goals of the Paris Agreement as well as a range of broader sustainable development objectives. However, although the benefits of their reform have been widely acknowledged, fossil fuel subsidies persist in both developed and developing economies. Most scholars addressing this puzzle have done so primarily through the lens of domestic politics.

Chapter 5, by contrast, considers how various international institutions are approaching FFSR governance. The authors briefly introduce the rationale for FFSR, before analyzing the coherence of the institutional complex at the meso level. This includes the possible emergence of a core norm of FFSR, membership distribution, and the governance functions carried out by the various international institutions active in this area. To further evaluate the degree of coherence in this field, the chapter zooms in on the micro level. Concretely, the authors examine a subset of three international clubs whose FFSR activities are among the most prominent globally: the Group of 20 (G20), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform. They first introduce the FFSR activities undertaken by each of these three institutions, and then, drawing on interviews, consider the interlinkages between these activities, as well as efforts to manage them. The chapter concludes by considering implications of the findings for the future management of FFSR governance and the complexity thereof.

Chapter 6 by Skovgaard and Canavan examines the third case study of the complex of institutions promoting carbon pricing. Carbon pricing – in the shape of carbon taxes, emissions trading, and offsets – places a price on the emission of carbon and mainly targets emissions from energy consumption. Advocates of carbon pricing have promoted it as the solution, or at least as one of the key tools to combat climate change. Even if one does not subscribe to these claims, carbon pricing can provide significant emissions reductions as well as fiscal revenue. Previous studies of carbon pricing have mainly focused on economic aspects and on single cases of pricing efforts at national, provincial, and European Union levels. This chapter contributes to the literature by focusing on the neglected issue of what the governance of carbon pricing looks like on the international level. It does so by mapping the thirteen international institutions that constitute the carbon-pricing subfield and by assessing the degree of cross-institutional coherence, i.e. identifying to what extent the institutions can be organized into specific clusters. The examined carbon pricing institutions are public, private, and hybrid in nature. They overlap in terms of membership, geographical scope, and governance functions and to some degree differ in their interpretation of the core norm of carbon pricing.

Moreover, Chapter 6 focuses on the interlinkages between, on the one hand, the UNFCCC and, on the other hand, three World Bank-based institutions: the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, the Networked Carbon Markets, and the Partnership for Market Readiness. These interlinkages, the (cognitive, normative, or behavioural) mechanisms through which they take place, and the attempts to manage them are studied through key informant interviews and official documents. The chapter finally discusses to which extent the subfield of carbon pricing can be characterized in terms of synergy, division of labour, coexistence, coordination, conflict, or competition.

1.4.3 Legitimacy and Effectiveness in the Climate-Energy Nexus

Part III examines the consequences of the degree of institutional complexity that we identified in the previous part. Two chapters will examine how the legitimacy and effectiveness of institutions can be assessed against the backdrop of the normative, functional, and membership-related coherence of the subfields in which these institutions are embedded.

Chapter 7 applies the evaluative theme of legitimacy that we introduced in Chapter 2. Nasiritousi and Verhaegen examine how stakeholders assess a set of institutions within the renewable energy subfield along nine dimensions of legitimacy. Given the proliferation of institutions with overlapping mandates, institutions rely on favourable legitimacy perceptions by a range of stakeholders in order to attract members and resources. By focusing on those aspects of legitimacy that the institutions themselves can affect, the chapter examines how assessments of institutional qualities differ between a diverse set of stakeholder groups.

Specifically, the chapter analyzes results from an expert survey among energy and climate stakeholders, including governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders from different world regions. Respondents were asked to assess five climate and energy governance institutions that exhibit different but overlapping mandates and membership: the IEA, CEM, IRENA, REN21, and UNFCCC. Through this systematic and comparative mapping of stakeholders’ legitimacy assessments, the chapter offers novel insights into legitimacy under institutional complexity and concludes by discussing implications for institutions’ legitimation strategies.

In Chapter 8, Nasiritousi, Sanderink, Skovgaard, van Asselt, Verkuijl, and Widerberg ask: How do institutional linkages affect the performance and the effectiveness of individual institutions and how can performance and effectiveness be strengthened in the institutionally complex nexus of global climate and energy governance? The chapter addresses these questions for the three subfields studied in this book: renewable energy, fossil fuel subsidy reform, and carbon markets. It starts off with discussing the concept of effectiveness and highlighting the challenges to analyzing the effectiveness of institutions, especially when they have overlapping mandates and are interlinked. In order to respond to these challenges, our research relies on a two-track approach, integrating assessments by researchers and interviews with key stakeholders.

By examining the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of the three subfields, the chapter shows both the advantages and the disadvantages of institutional complexity in the climate-energy nexus for achieving effectiveness. Through its crosscutting perspective, the study identifies a set of management options and discusses opportunities and barriers to reform the nexus. It concludes by outlining implications for overcoming some of the downsides of institutional complexity.

The conclusions of this book in Chapter 9 provide a critical review of the conceptual, empirical, and theoretical contributions in this volume. First, we summarize the major novelties and findings, systematically contrasting the empirical results for coherence, management, legitimacy, and effectiveness across the subfields of the climate-energy nexus. Second, the chapter explores to which extent the results across the institutional complexes for renewable energy, FFSR, and carbon pricing can be explained or understood by the problem-structural approach we introduced previously – i.e. by the nature of the problem to be regulated and its position within the climate-energy nexus – or by alternative approaches. Third, we discuss potential policy recommendations that could be derived from the findings. Finally, the chapter suggests a future research agenda on the governance of the climate-energy nexus.


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