Stockholm + 50: Political accountability for five decades of insufficient environmental action
Universität Freiburg, Germany
Humans are dramatically accelerating global environmental change. Several planetary boundaries have been overstepped including climate change. This article deals with challenges and opportunities to hold power wielders accountable for five decades of insufficient environmental action since the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. Based on a theoretical framework that differentiates between public, private and voluntary logics of accountability, the article assesses accountability mechanism with respect to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This allows us to discuss and conclude on the untapped potential for holding power wielders accountable. There is a need to establish norms demanding stringent respect of environmental protection in global development. Besides greater ‘peer review’ and exchange of good practices among governments, parliaments should play a larger role in formal mechanism of monitoring and surveillance. Finally, we should use SDG indicators not only for ranking nation-states, but make them mandatory for corporate reporting and establish rankings of global business players.
Power/knowledge in socio-ecological systems: A case study on the ecovillage discourse in Senegal
Gauss Int Consulting, University of Edinburgh
The governance of socio-ecological systems is often conceived as the quest for the institutional setting most suited to restore and sustain its resilience over time. Indeed, resilience thinking has grown into a dominant paradigm to study human-nature interactions, but questions have been raised concerning its lack of concern for power dynamics. However, without power analysis, it takes the risk of remaining apolitical, ahistorical and highly normative, leading to simplified institutional prescriptions to multi-dimensional problems. To answer this gap, this paper explores how the work of Michel Foucault on power/knowledge and discursive power can contribute to socio-ecological governance and resilience theory.
First, building upon evolutionary governance theory (EGT) and transition theory, a conceptual framework is developed to study discourses and power in socio-ecological systems. The framework is composed of several core analytical units: an epistemic landscape, actor/institution configurations, and the components of natural capital. The agents of the social system are interconnected by discursive flows, while the social-ecological interaction is conceptualized as a bi-directional flow of contributions (nature’s contributions to people; and people’s contributions to nature). Actors are further situated along a niche-regime continuum depending on the type of power they exercise in the socio-ecological system (innovative, reinforcing or transformative power).
Second, through a case study approach based on an operationalization protocol, the framework is applied to the ecovillage discourse in Senegal. Throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, ecovillages are emerging as new sites of politics, where creative adaptation to climate change and regenerative cultures are being experimented. The ecovillage discourse is structured as a global epistemic community focused on establishing communal and ecological solutions from the ‘bottom-up’. These innovative structures are implemented in Senegal through multiple institutions: a governmental agency, environmental NGOs, and religious communities; thereby creating complex forms of agency and governance of ecovillage implementation.
Through ethnographic and qualitative analysis, the framework application to the ecovillage discourse exposes divergent uses of the ecovillage concept and strategies of implementation by diverse actors. Comparing 4 social-ecological practices in 3 different ecovillages (agroecology, reforestation, waste management and renewable energies), the analysis demonstrates how discursive divergence lead to contrasting impacts upon people’s livelihoods. Based on the results, the discussion section explores insights on power/knowledge configurations in socio-ecological systems, such as factors affecting learning and adaptation processes and the governance of (dis)empowerment. Finally, methodological and theoretical recommendations for future research are formulated, based on the framework achievements and drawbacks throughout the research process.
How Citizen Assemblies Demonstrate the Need to Strengthen Democracies in the Face of the Climate Crisis
1Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Germany; 2Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change (MCC Berlin), Germany
During the next decades, states have the responsibility to facilitate and guide sustainability transitions across all sectors. Making these transitions just and inclusive requires new democratic practices and thought spaces. Despite the need to address climate change has gained more political attention, many leading politicians assume that the electorate would not accept more far-reaching climate action. To scrutinize this assumption, we explore how democracy and effective climate policies relate to each other. The article combines a perspective of normative democratic theory with the analysis of empirical cases. Doing so, we advance the debate on mini publics as important democratic innovation in the context of the climate crisis. To better understand the relationship between democratic decision-making and climate action, we have studied three cases of citizens’ assemblies, which have been held on the topic of climate change, which are the citizen assemblies in France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Our research strongly suggests that the processes and structural conditions of democratic representation need to be rethought, re-imagined and changed. Increasing the ability of all citizens to effectively participate in collective decision-making processes will, in all likelihood, strengthen climate action in a socially acceptable way while deepening democracy at the same time.
Creating a Body of Science we need for the Ocean we want: Role and Characteristics of a Scientific and Technical Body for the new BBNJ Agreement
University of Vienna, Austria
Negotiations for a new legally binding agreement for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) is currently ongoing. As one part of the agreement, negotiators from over one hundred governments are envisioning a scientific and technical body (STB) for advice on the implementation of the future agreement. However, research is lacking regarding the role and characteristics of such a body, concerning criteria for choosing experts to ensure an independent, representative, continuous advice and review of measures, assessments of progress and recommendations in the BBNJ process.
This article analyses the institutionalisation of science for the new agreement on marine biodiversity by using ethnographic data, collected at the intergovernmental conferences regarding statements by state and non-state actors on their positions on the future STB, as well as expert interviews with BBNJ stakeholders on their perspectives regarding the role and characteristics of this new subsidiary body.
In the light of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030), this article reflects on the opportunity of the future STB to create a representative knowledge base for marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction through cross-sectoral and cross-generational collaboration.
PaxClimatica: the Nash equilibrium and the geopolitics of climate change
1Jagiellonian Uniersity; 2Ministry of Climate and Environment, Republic of Poland; 3Institute of New Europe
Ubiquitous and unfathomable, climate change constitutes an intangible phenomenon, one that is particularly difficult to incorporate into geopolitical analysis. In spite of this challenge, a quasi-global consensus has emerged whereby climate change is now widely identified as an ultimately existential threat to all stakeholders of the international realm. Yet the efforts to tackle the root cause of global warming by transitioning into a low-carbon global economy remain uneven and are increasingly in peril. One major reason why the pace of decarbonization has been subject to fluctuations is the use of power of control over supply chains of fossil energy resources by states driven by geopolitical agendas. Crucially, the geopolitical gains thus obtained by such an exporting state could – in the long term and with all things considered – be offset by the damage which the state’s weakening of climate mitigation efforts would have generated. While this is only one among the plethora of examples of acts or activities which states may deliberately choose to perform to advance their short- to mid-term geopolitical interests to the detriment of their long-term ones, the case of climate change is distinct not least due to the stakes at play.
The first central assumption of the paper is that interstate geopolitical rivalry is unlikely to wind down in foreseeable future even in presence of more noticeable and measurable negative effects of climate change. The second fundamental assumption is an extension of the first one and indicates that in presence of two competing strategic national interests – assuring supply of energy and cutting GHG emissions – states will in all likelihood favor the former. Commencing with a detailed reasoning in support of this assumption, the paper then examines how the game theory and the Nash’s equilibrium in particular might serve to create a conceptual framework within which the aforementioned challenges could be addressed. In short, Nash’s equilibrium offers a way to address the dichotomy between the preference of states for attaining more immediate goals at the expense of their long-term security concerns stemming from climate change and its threat-multiplying properties. It attempts to structure this argument on the basis of earlier applications of Nash’s equilibrium in political analysis, as well as the author’s original contributions, mostly with regard to the question of how issues of causation and the cost-benefit analysis need to be re-assessed in order to render climate action more resilient to geopolitical rivalry.