(How) Do National Sustainability Institutions Shape Climate Governance?

Aktivität: Vorträge und GastvorlesungenKonferenzvorträgeForschung

Okka Lou Mathis - Ko-Autor*in

Michael Rose - Sprecher*in

Jens Newig - Ko-Autor*in

Even though climate change has to be addressed at a global scale, the meagre outcome of the last COP under the UNFCCC in Madrid has once again shown that peer pressure at the inter-governmental level is not enough to raise countries’ ambitions for meeting the internationally agreed 1.5° or 2°C as limits for global warming. With the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) established in the Paris Agreement in 2015 it is explicitly up to the nation states to define their commitments to act on global climate change. National polities, politics and policies are key to understand what shapes the countries’ mitigation targets and performances.

In this context, the role of official councils, committees, commissions or ombudspersons that were deliberately set up to promote sustainability in political decision-making may be decisive. Governments around the world have installed such specialised political bodies, often in response to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 or the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development in 2015. Cases in point are the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Sustainable Development in the German Bundestag, the former Commission for Future Generations in Israel, or the National Council for Environment and Sustainable Development in Burkina Faso. We subsume the conundrum of such institutionalised bodies for sustainability under the term “sustainability institutions”. By hosting one or several of these institutions, national polities may benefit from enhanced institutional capacities for sustainability and climate policy and governance.

However, sustainability institutions are surprisingly understudied. We address this research gap and examine the role national sustainability institutions play in sustainability governance in general and climate governance in particular. First, we define and operationalise the concept of sustainability institutions and apply it to a number of real-world cases. In terms of substance, we consider those bodies to be sustainability institutions that are concerned with an integrated understanding of sustainability, i.e. linking the ecological and social dimensions, considering the global context and orienting themselves towards the (long-term) future. In terms of structure, we define sustainability institutions as political bodies that are purpose-specific, cross-sectoral and to some degree permanent, i.e. institutionalised. Second, we build an analytical framework to examine their institutional capacity and governance functions that allow them to contribute to sustainability and climate policy and governance. We analyse membership, resources, institutional links, as well as their mandates and competences such as policy advice, public awareness raising, horizontal and vertical coordination and policy integration, monitoring, providing long-term perspectives, writing appraisals, organizing stakeholder participation processes, contributing reflexivity and knowledge integration, investigating violations against sustainability or climate regulations, or assessing draft legislation, etc.

Climate policy and governance are the most natural testing grounds for sustainability institutions, as they require most of the mentioned governance functions to be met in order to successfully mitigate climate change – a prototypical instance of a sustainability problem. With this paper, we lay the empirically informed conceptual ground for future large-n empirical cross-sectoral studies on varieties of sustainability institutions in national polities and their role in climate policy and governance and – ultimately – performance.


5th International Conference on Public Policy



Veranstaltung: Konferenz