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This chapter analyzes the fragmentation of architectures of earth system governance. We start with a conceptualization of governance fragmentation and its relation to concepts such as polycentricity and institutional complexity. We then review the origins of governance fragmentation and its problematization, methodological approaches to studying fragmentation and the impacts and consequences of fragmentation. We conclude by identifying future research directions in this domain. Our research shows that fragmentation is ubiquitous, that it varies among policy areas and governance areas and that it is a variable that can be assessed in comparative research across policy areas and over time. The review is based on a comprehensive study of the literature on governance fragmentation over the last decade. We draw on a Scopus search on all articles published in the subject area of social sciences from 2009 to 2018, supplemented by additional studies, such as books, book chapters and a few policy briefs and working papers.
Over the past decades, international institutions, such as treaties and regimes, have proliferated in global governance, and we have seen a tremendous amount of studies on their emergence, maintenance and effectiveness. Increasingly it has become evident, however, that such institutions do not operate in a void but within complex webs of larger governance settings. These large web-like structures, or ‘governance architectures’, are important to understand because they shape, enable and at times hinder the functioning of single international institutions and are crucial variables in determining the overall effectiveness of global governance. In recent years, this concept of governance architecture has effectively shifted the debate to situations in which an area is regulated by multiple institutions and norms in complex settings. This introductory chapter offers conceptual clarity about global governance architectures and their structural features as well as an overview of key insights gained through the last decade of research. We also identify key methodological approaches, challenges, and advances in this field of study.
Hierarchization is a deliberate process to create a vertically nested governance architecture where actors and institutions in a lower rank are bound or otherwise compelled to obey, respond to or contribute to higher-order norms and objectives. Drawing on this definition, we review recent research on hierarchization in earth system governance and the political and legal processes that establish, maintain and legitimize it. Here we present three mutually non-exclusive forms of hierarchization – systematization, centralization and prioritization. Each involves different actors and rationales, mechanisms and strategies, while achieving different purposes with varying governance outcomes. We illustrate our argument with empirical examples including the proposed Global Pact for the Environment, the proposal to establish a world environment organization and the Sustainable Development Goals. We conclude with an assessment of the benefits and drawbacks of hierarchization as an approach to some of the challenges inherent in earth system governance, and offer suggestions for future research.
There is a growing consensus in the literature that governance architectures matter. However, we lack sufficient knowledge about their emergence, dynamics and impacts. This concluding chapter summarizes all insights in the book Architectures of Earth System Governance, and emphasizes how this book has made a scientific contribution by enhancing conceptual clarity, synthesizing a decade of intense research, and charting directions for future research. The book has made at least one point clear: the ‘architecture lens’ offers a bird’s-eye view on the global governance landscape that is highly valuable in explaining outcomes of world politics. The architectures matter in how institutions interact with others, how institutions are entangled with others in larger regime complexes and how institutions are affected by broader architectures that are more or less fragmented or polycentric. In this concluding chapter, we also illustrate how such key insights gained could inform a set of transformative policy proposals regarding the architecture of earth system governance.
Governance through goals, a relatively new global governance mechanism, has recently gained prominence, particularly since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. Through this mechanism, internationally agreed policy goals orchestrate the activities of governmental and non-governmental actors. This chapter argues that governance through goals has important effects on governance architectures and their degree and type of fragmentation. To analyze these effects, we review literature around four characteristics of governance through goals: their non-legally binding nature, weak global institutional arrangements, inclusive goal-setting processes and national leeway. We argue that alternative forms of bindingness, such as reporting and accountability mechanisms, can steer actors toward a shared vision. This may result in synergistic fragmentation if broad support is obtained through inclusive processes. However, tensions and cherry-picking may arise when goals are prioritized and implemented. Further research on the effects of governance through goals is crucial given that it is likely to maintain – and gain – importance in earth system governance.
International institutions are prevalent in world politics. More than a thousand multilateral treaties are in place just to protect the environment alone, and there are many more. And yet, it is also clear that these institutions do not operate in a void but are enmeshed in larger, highly complex webs of governance arrangements. This compelling book conceptualises these broader structures as the 'architectures' of global governance. Here, over 40 international relations scholars offer an authoritative synthesis of a decade of research on global governance architectures with an empirical focus on protecting the environment and vital earth systems. They investigate the structural intricacies of earth system governance and explain how global architectures enable or hinder individual institutions and their overall effectiveness. The book offers much-needed conceptual clarity about key building blocks and structures of complex governance architectures, charts detailed directions for new research, and provides analytical groundwork for policy reform.This is one of a series of publications associated with the Earth System Governance Project. For more publications, see www.cambridge.org/earth-system-governance.