Special IssuePolitics at All Levels Giving New Impetus to Climate Protection

International agreements like the Paris Climate Agreement are vitally important for climate protection. But individual countries, regions, and cities have also adopted ambitious climate protection measures in recent years. In the current special issue of the journal Environmental Policy and Governance devoted to multi-level climate governance, five articles investigate how cooperation between various climate policy levels and sectors can benefit from methods such as peer learning and knowledge sharing on best practices.

“The articles in this special issue show that the multi-level system of global climate governance is a stable foundation for making progress on climate policy. Each level, from the international community to countries, regions, cities, towns, and even villages, can make an important contribution to climate protection,” stresses IASS Senior Fellow Martin Jänicke, who edited the special issue together with Barbara Saerbeck and Kirsten Jörgensen from the Environmental Policy Research Centre at the Freie Universität Berlin. The articles reveal the wealth of approaches taken in law-making and initiatives at all governance levels to advance climate protection.An exchange of ideas at different levels of politics has given new impetus to climate protection. © istock/Cecilie_Arcurs (symbolic image).An exchange of ideas at different levels of politics has given new impetus to climate protection. © istock/Cecilie_Arcurs (symbolic image).

European Union has the most effective multi-level system of climate governance

The current dynamism can be attributed to both horizontal peer learning – the dialogue between countries, cities, and regions at the same level – and to vertical communications between institutions and communities at different levels. The special issue increases our understanding of the effects of specific measures and how they are connected in the broader climate governance landscape. The articles focus on the European Union, India, and China.

In their article on European climate and energy governance, Martin Jänicke and political scientist Rainer Quitzow from the IASS argue that the EU is the most dynamic sub-system of the global multi-level climate governance system. The EU provides an important framework for the dissemination of national policy innovations pioneered in countries like Denmark or Germany. But it also boasts an institutionalised regional political system and directly supports climate governance at municipal level through the Covenant of Mayors. In this way, it provides a platform for local government in countries where the national climate policy is either weak or has suffered a temporary setback.

Linkage to economic interests boosts climate policy

Jänicke and Quitzow point to the EU’s industrial policy as a particularly effective instrument for promoting climate protection. In their view, this policy consciously takes advantage of the positive economic side effects of climate governance. As Quitzow explains, “Promoting climate friendly technologies is one of the main objectives of European innovation policy. That’s particularly important for countries where there is no significant national research programme in this area.” For him, the multi-level governance system as a mechanism for interactive learning and the linking of climate policy goals to economic interests are the two main factors behind the success of the EU’s climate policy. It’s thanks only to them that such rapid progress was possible, for example in the expansion of renewables: 86 per cent of the facilities that opened in the EU in 2016 generate electricity from renewable sources.

According to Kirsten Jörgensen and Christian Wagner from the Freie Universität Berlin, the dynamic multi-level climate governance system is also conducive to the conclusion of bilateral and global climate agreements. In their article, they describe how the EU and India have strengthened their cooperation on climate and energy issues in recent years despite differences in their respective approaches. For India, mitigating climate change does not have the same priority as it has in the EU. There, economic growth and combatting poverty are seen as more important goals. Yet responsibilities for energy and climate policy are distributed among different actors at national level, in the states and union territories, and the cities. The exchange of ideas with EU actors at various levels and member states has already boosted climate protection in India. Both Jörgensen and Wagner see further potential for peer learning, competition, and cooperation here.

On the whole, the articles in the special issue show that countries, regions, and cities are adopting effective climate protection measures – increasingly even when there is no statutory requirement to do so – and are thus encouraging other actors to follow suit.

Environmental Policy and Governance: Special Issue: Multi-level Climate Governance: The global system and selected sub-systems, 27, 2.