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Journal article

Effective governance of transnational adaptation initiatives

This article assesses what makes transnational climate adaptation initiatives successful.

Adis Dzebo / Published on 12 June 2019

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Dzebo, A. (2019). Effective governance of transnational adaptation initiatives. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics.

To date, transnational climate governance has mainly focused on climate change mitigation, both in practice and in the literature. However, transnationally governed adaptation initiatives are emerging and growing.

This article analyses the effectiveness of transnational adaptation initiatives, based on a new dataset of 40 initiatives that are governing adaptation across borders and that include non-state actors. It asks: Are transnational adaptation initiatives achieving their stated goals and objectives, and which factors explain successes?

Drawing on transnational climate and sustainable development governance literature, an analytical framework is developed to assess to what extent a variety of possible factors – “actors”, “process”, “institutional design” and “context” – can explain effective outcomes. It finds that while almost two-thirds of the 40 initiatives were highly effective in achieving goals and objectives by producing outputs, only one-third were highly effective in achieving outcomes, in the sense of leading to substantial change in the behaviour of their target groups. Where initiatives are effective, the main factors determining success have been:

  • strong leadership and orchestration
  • good process management and staff resources
  • a focus on standard-setting and service provision rather than knowledge transfer
  • a high level of institutionalization through binding rules for partners
  • good coordination with international regimes.

Perhaps surprisingly in view of their voluntary nature, initiatives based on “hard” functions – standard-setting and service provision as opposed to knowledge transfer – and setting binding rules for partners were found to be more effective.

This article is part of a special issue of the journal International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics on “Exploring global and transnational governance of climate change adaptation”, edited by Adis Dzebo and Åsa Persson.

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SEI author

Adis Dzebo
Adis Dzebo

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Headquarters

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Topics and subtopics
Climate : Adaptation / Governance : Public policy
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