The book cover features a murmuration of starlings. The photo of hundreds of birds seemingly moving as one offers a visual metaphor for policentricity, the dispersed pattern of governing that has become a characteristic of contemporary climate change policy-making. Photo: Cambridge University Press.

Climate change governance is in a state of enormous flux. New and more dynamic forms of governing are appearing around the international climate regime centred on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Some appear to be emerging spontaneously, producing a more dispersed pattern of governing, which Nobel Prize laureate Elinor Ostrom described as “polycentric”.

This new 20-chapter book with Cambridge University Press brings together contributions from 40 of the world’s foremost experts to provide the first systematic test of the ability of polycentric thinking to explain and enhance societal attempts to govern climate change.

It provides:

  • The first systematic application of polycentric theory in the area of climate change, offering a much more realistic appreciation of the potential and limits of polycentric governing
  • A novel attempt to comprehend climate governance as a single, evolving system, rather than a series of isolated parts
  • Fresh insights by a diverse team of international experts on the most significant domains and processes of governing.

Polycentric governance thinking is much more tolerant of overlap, redundancy and duplication in governance. Under this view, the fact that multiple governing units take initiatives at the same time is seen not as inefficient and fragmented, but as an opportunity for learning about what works best in different domains

The book is linked to a massive open online course (MOOC) developed by the Open University of the Netherlands, and, thus, seeks to provide a rich set of relevant learning materials for students and early career researchers in public policy, international relations, environmental science, environmental management, politics, law and public administration.

SEI Senior Research Fellow Harro van Asselt, who is also Professor of Climate Law and Policy at the University of Eastern Finland Law School, is an author and co-editor of the book. Co-editors are Andrew Jordan and Johanna Forster, both of the University of East Anglia; and Dave Huitema, of Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam.