This suggests that a multiplicity of actors – state and non-state – have plausible claims to be engaged in or responsible for the governance of transboundary climate risks. However, it is presently unclear on what premises a global governance institution to do so might be constructed and the roles various actors may play therein. This absence of established roles and norms creates a space for political contestation with legitimacy at its center.

In this paper, the authors unpack the contested nature of legitimacy by examining the governance of TCRs in agricultural supply-chains. Empirically, they analyze 41 semi-structured interviews across the Brazilian-German coffee supply-chain in an effort to characterize the primary modes of governance available to manage TCRs and their perceived institutional sources of legitimacy.

The authors identify five distinct governance pathways, each underpinned by a distinct operationalization of legitimacy. These governance pathways are not necessarily mutually exclusive; it is plausible for several to co-exist, though the relative balance between their importance in a given context may vary widely. They argue that these five pathways and the role of legitimacy in navigating their differences are transferrable to other challenges in global environmental governance.

Further, the authors argue that legitimacy is best understood as an object of political contestation, wherein actors deploy various sources of legitimacy differently in an effort to legitimize their preferred approach to TCR management, delegitimize others, and advance their own vision of appropriate global environmental governance.