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Yesterday night, the representatives of 196 nations reached what The Guardian called “the world’s greatest diplomatic success” at the 21st UN climate conference, COP21, in Paris. After the dramatic failure of COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 to reach an agreement for committing the nations of the world to cut carbon emissions, Paris was hailed as the “our best chance to safe the planet“.

I observed the intense build-up towards the Paris COP with much apprehension because, based on a historical analysis of the COPs leading up to the Copenhagen event, my coauthors and I detected the staging of a COP as a “high-stakes” event as potentially problematic for reaching a successful outcome. In our paper, we argued that in the light of extremely high fragmentation in the field developing prior to Copenhagen, the staging of COP15 as a high-stakes event backfired, exacerbating feelings of distrust and unbridgeable disagreement among the negotiating parties. We identified agenda-setting, the possibilities for informal interaction and negotiation leadership as crucial factors influencing the success of negotiations. We also argued that an intense and frustrating pre-COP meeting cycle could decrease the negotiators’ motivation.

The Paris COP allows us now to reflect on our argument and “test” whether our findings can be used to explain its outcome. Somewhat in contrast to our argument, COP21 was also preceded by intense years of negotiations, often on a daily basis. Yet, while the negotiations prior to Copenhagen revolved around the highly contested technical details of the Kyoto Protocol’s policy instruments, they were marked by diplomatic achievements such as the climate accord struck between the USA and China prior to Paris.

In line with our findings, the way the Paris COP was “enacted”, particularly by the negotiation leaders, was a key to its success. For instance, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his colleague Laurence Tubiana – maybe paradoxically – formally installed informal meetings to enable consensus-building in small groups and prevent fragmentation. When the deal threatened to fail, the French negotiation leaders formed working groups and asked dissenting parties to chair these groups, thus forcing them into a proactive leadership role. Additionally, the staging of COP21 decidedly differed from previous COPs: usually the heads of states come in at the end of the negotiations, but were asked to open the meeting in Paris, thus setting a clear mandate for their negotiators to reach a consensus.

Following David Victor, we questioned in our paper whether the UNFCCC’s principles of inclusiveness and consensus can be upheld or are in the way of a climate deal. In the light of clever negotiation leadership and intense preceding diplomatic efforts outlined above, COP21 has shown that the inclusion of small countries can actually be an important force for change and ambition, as the UNFCCC has envisioned. Indeed, it was the small island states and least developed countries that formed a “high ambition coalition” leading to a 1.5-degree temperature target in the new agreement, which is more ambitious than the previous 2 degree target, but necessary to ensure the survival of countries in low-lying coastal areas.

At least for a short moment, today I feel hopeful for the world my daughters will live in in the future thanks to “the miracle of Paris”. Of course, it remains to be seen what the ratification process will look like in the next year – the history of the Kyoto Protocol tells us that what is hailed as a miracle today may eventually turn out to be a devil in disguise in the future.

Yesterday, the papal encyclical “Laudato Sii” was finally released. Environmentally engaged members of the Roman Catholic Church have awaited this day with cautious excitement since January 2014, when it was first announced that Pope Francis prepares such a document on “the ecology of mankind”. Over the last months, the event has also received remarkable attention in the wider public all over the globe.

The release of the encyclical exemplifies how religious actors can influence regulatory processes. Short-term, it may affect current political events with judgments about concrete political choices, influencing their (il)legitimacy. For instance, the papal encyclical calls the final document of the Conference of the United Nations on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012, “ineffective”. Further,

the strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. […] it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors (Laudato Sii).

The release may also create a new momentum of debate and hope in the year of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol in Paris during which parties aim for a new, legally binding agreement.

Long-term, it is a significant theological document meant to give direction to contemporary Catholicism and 1.2 billion Catholics around the world. Even if we cannot know how it will be interpreted in thirty years from now, its effect is likely to last longer than the next international climate agreement. But despite or especially because of its character, it enfolds its dynamic only with its reception by an audience willing and eager to engage with it. At least three factors have helped to turn the publication of the encyclical into a widely received event which is likely to deserve all the hope that is attached to it.

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This post is provided by our regular guest blogger Elke Schüßler. Elke Schüßler is Assistant Professor of Organization Theory at the Management Departement at Freie Universität Berlin.

Daniel Henninger (Foto: Dow Jones Events, CC-BY-ND)

Daniel Henninger (Foto: DJEvents, CC-BY-ND)

Yesterday, the article „Why Can’t the Left Govern?“ written by Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page and a former Pulitzer Price finalist, made it to the Wall Street Journal’s most popular article within a few hours. At the time of writing this post, the article received over 1000 comments.

I would not have stumbled across this piece of journalism had it not been based on a study by Charles-Clemens Rüling, Bettina Wittneben and myself recently published in the Academy of Management Journal on the problems of UN climate conferences in advancing transnational climate change policy. In an adventurous logical jump, Henninger links our analysis of the field maintenance mechanisms that have eaten their way into the transnational climate policy process to a worldwide crisis of the Left generally and US president Obama’s reform of the US healthcare system through what is known as „Obamacare“ specifically.

While indeed the reform of the US healthcare system has been a daunting struggle for almost a century and, as such, may exhibit some parallels to the task of mitigating climate change, there are several reasons for considering this jump as adventurous.

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The conference “Access and Allocation in the Anthropocene” addresses questions of equity, justice, and fairness in environmental governance as well as transformative pathways towards sustainability. The call for papers draws on the analytical concepts of access and allocation, architecture, agency, adaptiveness, and accountability which structure the Earth System Governance Project (ESG). This scientific network is one of the co-organizers next to the University of East Anglia and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

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You want to win a prize in a writing contest in social science in which contributions written like an academic paper will not be accepted? Pay attention to the following call for articles: The International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) invites young scholars to submit texts on Sustainable Development Goals and their human dimension, be it political, technological, economic, or social.

Prizes are US$ 500, US$ 200, and US$ 100 and the three winning pieces will be published in the in-house magazine Dimensions.
The deadline for submissions has been extended to May 15, 2013.

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Image_affiche_INTERNORM_Mars_2013

Last week, I attended a very interesting conference organized by Jean-Christophe Graz, Christoph Hauert, Marc Audetat and Danielle Büschi at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. At this conference, the prospects and limits of participation of civil society in international standardization were not only assessed by leading academics working in the field but also by members of various NGOs, including consumer and environmental organizations operating at the national and transnational level. The conference was part of a research programme at the University of Lausanne called “Living together under uncertainty” which has the aim to reinforce the relationship between academic knowledge and civil society. The INTERNORM project is trully transdisciplinary in the sense that Helga Nowotny understands the term: bringing together different types of knowledge from academics and practitioners for democratic problem-solving in the global sphere. The conference was one of the rare moments where academics and pratictioners engaged in really productive intellectual inquiry into how problems of standard-setting are framed, organized and managed in various national and transnational arenas. It also turned out to be a very cross-fertilizing event between the French and English-speaking communities in this field. Discussions revealed the many still persisting obstacles created by technical standard-setting organizations which make it difficult for civil society actors to participate on an equal footing. Yet, discussions also pointed to the strategic capacity of transnational and European NGOs to coordinate effectively across borders and to set their priorities in ways to enhance their leverage and influence. The presentations of the conferences are available on the INTERNORM project website.

(sigrid)

At this year’s Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association from 16 – 22 August in Denver/Colorado, the Section on Global and Transnational Sociology featured a number of highly interesting panels and pre-conference activities. Panel topics included Global Governance (co-sponsored with Sociology of Law), Transnational Processes and Institutions, Gender, Globalization and Transnationalism, and Transnational Networks. In addition, a pre-conference meeting, organized by Peggy Levitt and Liz Boyle, discussed new ways of seeing and knowing in transnational and global research. At the Denver meeting the outgoing chair  Sarah Babb concluded her highly successful term of office and welcomed the new  chair Julia Adams (see interview). Read the rest of this entry »

I would like to use our blog to draw our readers’ attention to a mini-conference that I organize together with Tim Bartley, Nicole Helmerich and Chikako Oka titled “Regulating Labor and Environment: Beyond the Public-Private Divide”. The mini-conference will take place in the framework of the 2012 Annual Conference of the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) at MIT (Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA) on June 28-30, 2012.

The central question that we would like to address during the mini-conference is what the implications of global shifts and transnational standards for domestic regulatory projects in labor and environmental fields are. On the one hand, we invite papers that seek to explain how local contexts shape implementation and effectiveness of labor and environmental regulation in a globalizing world. On the other hand, our focus is the intersection between public and private forms of environmental and labor governance. To sum up, we seek to examine transnational-domestic and private-public links in transnational labor and environmental governance. Read the rest of this entry »

This post is provided by our “guest blogger” Elke Schüßler. Elke Schüßler is postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Management at Freie Universität Berlin.

The 17th climate summit in Durban has just concluded and the target of developing binding decisions for greenhouse gas emission caps post-2012, when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol – the “only game in town”, as it is often called inside the climate policy community – will end, has moved further afar. The main outcome of a uniquely long and strenuous negotiation process in this South African city was to postpone the development of such a treaty to 2015.

In a previous blog entry, Leonhard Dobusch and I have analyzed the role of music industry conferences as so-called “field configuring events” and the role they play in the contestation and possibly innovation of copyright regulation. Together with Bettina Wittneben (WiSE Institute) and Charles-Clemens Rüling (Grenoble Ecole de Management), I am conducting a similar analysis of the role of climate summits in the field of international climate change policy.

This field was established by the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and has since been marked by a series of international policy conferences carrying forward the United Nation’s climate change negotiation process: the annual ‘Conference of the Parties’ (COP) together with a series of mid-year ‘Meetings of the Subsidiary Bodies’ (SB) held in the context of the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Recent research has underlined the role of international conferences as “catalysts of change, especially as organizations and governments struggle to develop global solutions to complex problems” (Hardy & Maguire, 2010: 1358). Read the rest of this entry »

A recurrent topic across most fields covered here at governance across borders is standards. In the field of environmental standards, for example, Olga repeatedly discussed how transnational standards and local practices are interrelated (e.g. “From Transnational Standards to Local Practices“). In the field of copyright regulation, many posts deal with the issue of standard proliferation (e.g. “Money Buys You Standards?“) and diffusion (e.g. “Iconic Standards: Regulating and Signaling“) in the case of Creative Commons.

But as always, at least in our recurrent series “Wise Cartoons“, all our words cannot live up to the simple wisdom of illustrations such as the one provided by XKCD below:

Fortunately, the charging one has been solved now that we've all standardized on mini-USB. Or is it micro-USB? Shit.

(leonhard)

PS: For another wise cartoon on standards that features Scott Adam’s Dilbert check out “Google Books and the Kindle Controversy“.

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
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