This study investigated the extent to which the existence of a polycentric climate governance regime in Pakistan has enabled diverse framings of climate justice to emerge and be operationalized within policy-making.

The two-part analysis included systematic coding and textual analysis of interview transcripts and policy documents.

An analysis based on climate justice framings revealed that while national governmental actors predominantly adopt an international framing of climate justice, non-state actors have increasingly adopted vulnerability, human rights and transformational framings of justice, thereby supporting the theory that polycentricity is widening the space for voicing diverse framings.

A polycentric governance-based analysis revealed that several institutional barriers limit the ability of non-state actors to operationalize these framings, particularly capacity and resource constraints, limits of scale and scope, changing legislation, and the unequivocal power held by the state. Hence, Pakistan’s overarching climate change strategy prioritizes justice between countries, while obscuring domestic inequalities, poverty and vulnerability, which are thus only addressed by non-state actors through isolated activities

These findings suggest that polycentric governance can diversify climate discourse, but also that the intergovernmental climate regime may reinforce the nation-state’s international framings of climate justice at the expense of domestic climate justice concerns.

Key policy insights

  • Non-state actors within the polycentric climate governance regime in Pakistan are increasingly adopting framings of climate justice beyond those of the state, thereby bringing attention to issues of domestic poverty, inequality and vulnerability.

  • Differences in power between state and non-state actors limit the extent to which different justice issues can be addressed through nationally and internationally led climate policy.

  • There are limits to how far national-level polycentric climate governance regimes, when embedded in intergovernmental negotiations, can engage in redistributing power and advocating for different framings and dimensions of justice being raised by local actors.