On melting summits: The limitations of field-configuring events as catalysts of change in transnational climate policy

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Although field-configuring events have been highlighted as catalysts of institutional change, scholars still know little about the specific conditions that allow such change to occur. Using data from a longitudinal study of United Nations climate conferences, we analyze how regular and high-stakes events in an event series interacted in producing and preventing institutional change in the transnational climate policy field. We uncover variations in event structures, processes, and outcomes that explain why climate conferences have not led to effective solutions to combat human-induced global warming. Results in particular highlight that growing field complexity and issue multiplication compromise the change potential of a field-configuring event series in favor of field maintenance. Over time, diverse actors find event participation useful for their own purposes, but their activity is not connected to the institutions at the center of the issue-based field. In discussing how events configuring a field are purposefully staged and enacted but also influenced by developments in the field, our study contributes to a more complete understanding of field-configuring events, particularly in contested transnational policy arenas.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)140-171
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 14.03.2014
Externally publishedYes