SEI Contact:

Harro van Asselt

Telephone: +44 186 542 6316

Time-frame: 2014–2017

Navigating institutional complexity in global climate governance: causes, consequences and responses

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) does not operate in a vacuum, but interacts with a complex environment of other institutions. This institutional complexity matters: it has major consequences for key governance aspects like effectiveness, legitimacy and participation.

This project examines the causes and consequences of, and responses to institutional complexity for the issue areas of geoengineering, REDD+ and short-lived climate pollutants. These areas are chosen for their common importance, but varying levels of institutional complexity and different problem structures. 

First, the project maps institutional diversity in these areas, drawing on methods such as legal and network analyses. Second, the project offers a theory-driven analysis of the causes of complexity, drawing on theories from international relations and law. Third, the project analyses the consequences of complexity, using interviews and extensive literature reviews.

From these analyses the project derives recommendations for public and private stakeholders on navigating institutional complexity in the three areas. The project is significant from a policy-making perspective in that: it deals with three issues with high levels of policy attention; it helps different types of stakeholders deal with institutional complexity in global climate governance; and it highlights the interconnectedness between the UNFCCC and other institutions, showing how they can support each other and thereby enhance the ambition of climate policy.