Our knowledge of transnational governance has been fundamentally shaped by the theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches that have been used to study it (O’Neill et al. 2013, 444). Primarily using a case-study approach revolving around a few high-profile examples, research on transnational governance has focused on the ways in which actors have sought to engage with different forms of transnational governance, the various functions that such arrangements seek to perform and their potential consequences in terms of legitimacy and effectiveness. Such approaches have yielded significant insights into these aspects of transnational governance but cannot, by their very nature, achieve a more comprehensive or systematic view. As O’Neill et al. (2013) suggest, such approaches may be ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of ‘complexity and uncertainty, vertical linkages across multiple scales, horizontal linkages across issue areas, and (often rapidly) evolving problem sets and institutional initiatives’ that beset global environmental governance research, such that new methodological approaches are required. If we regard transnational governance initiatives as having something in common – in terms of what they are seeking to accomplish, or in terms of the ways in which they are organised and constituted – we suggest that methodological innovations capable of creating a more comprehensive account of the overall phenomenon are required.
In order to develop such a broader understanding of the extent and nature of transnational governance in the climate change domain, our approach extends beyond small n case-studies or surveys of one particular type of transnational arrangement through the construction and analysis of a database of sixty transnational climate governance initiatives. This approach enables an analysis of the contours of transnational climate governance in a way that has not been possible within existing methodological approaches, allowing for a more thorough description of who and what are involved, where it is taking place, and how and why it is being pursued.