A group of Early Career Investigators posing in front of a castle.

by Nicole M. Schmidt (Heidelberg University) and Paul Tobin (Manchester University)

Blessed with stunning sunshine, sixteen early career researchers met at the International Academic Forum at Heidelberg University for three days in May to discuss current trends in climate governance innovations. The workshop was funded by INOGOV under the Early Career Investigators Network (ECIN), and so was organised by and targeted to PhD researchers, postdocs, and new lecturers. In 2016, a previous workshop organized by ECIN members had taken place in Zurich, and highlighted the challenges for data availability in climate policy science. This subsequent workshop sought to lay the empirical focus on events leading up to the Paris COP, with a view to maximising the ability of every paper to use recent empirical data. The lead organisers of the workshop, Nicole Schmidt (Heidelberg) and Paul Tobin (Manchester), intentionally sought to bring together a wide range of proposals which addressed climate mitigation and adaptation efforts alike, as well as analysing a broad range of cases.

Receiving an extensive range of proposals outlining up-and-coming research, the workshop drew attendees from across three continents. The majority of participants came from Europe, followed by North America and Asia. Having received more than double the number of paper proposals that could be included, the standards for each manuscript were high. The three-day workshop started with a welcome by the organiser who presented jointly written research about countries’ Paris climate pledges. A keynote speech was given by Prof. Dr. Jale Tosun that built on her work with Adrian Rinscheid (Sankt Gallen) on the diffusion of so-called “climate clubs”. These exclusive groups of international actors cooperate on climate change activities, and have been identified as an important burgeoning area of climate policy research. During the discussion, the early career attendees were also able to benefit from additional tips and pieces of future career advice from Prof. Dr. Tosun.

The subsequent presentations on the first day focused on specific case studies, which analysed key mitigation or adaptation trends in the run-up to COP-21 in Paris. Generally, the field has been known to neglect domestic climate politics in the Global South, which is why it was so stimulating to receive insights on NAMAs (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions) and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Specifically, papers were presented relating to developments in India and Indonesia (Chris Höhne, Technical University of Darmstadt), climate governance trends in China (Jieling Liu) and Turkey (Zerrin Savaşan, Selçuk University), as well as agenda-setting for emissions reductions in Taiwan (Milan Chen, Technical University of Munich). Taiwan was shown to be a particularly interesting case, having not received particular academic coverage previously, due to the location not being party to the UNFCCC. Nevertheless, Taiwan is still eager to participate in climate activities as a means of bolstering its presence in the international arena. In general, extensive feedback on each draft manuscript was provided by participants, ensuring that every scholar received specific recommendations to support the publication of their research in the near future. The day ended with a conference dinner at the venue, after which participants took the opportunity to explore Heidelberg’s old town.

Day two focused primarily on climate mitigation trends, with the majority of papers covering energy policy. Eva Öller (Technical University of Munich) presented insights from Danish-German cooperation towards the EU 2030 renewable target, while Christoff Kotzé (Free University Berlin) presented findings from his own renewable energy target database and showed that most countries shift their energy target from time to time. Robert Watt (University of Manchester) and Philip Coventry (University of Reading) discussed the diffusion of emissions trading, and path dependence in UNFCCC climate finance policy, respectively.

After a bracing lunch with hummus, salads and fresh vegetables, the afternoon session continued with mitigation aspects ranging from the presentation of Himangana Gupta on India’s Perform, Achieve and Trade program (Ministry of Environment, India). The green economy and climate action in Hull and Bremerhaven were the focal points of Jeremy Moulton’s presentation (University of Hull) and the question of climate governance under constraints was the framing for Ginelle Greene’s (University of York) paper about Small Island Development States and the green transition of Barbados’ Solar PV sector.

The third day started with a presentation by Marielle Papin-Manjarrez (Laval University) about her PhD work on transnational city networks and Dexter Du from the University of Reading spoke about climate governance from the perspective of spatial planning looking at urban regions in Europe and China. In the final pairing of articles, Jonas Nahm (Johns Hopkins University) presented findings from the energy transitions in Germany and compared these to California, before Kai Schulze and Heike Böhler (University of Darmstadt) closed with their paper on climate innovations and electoral incentives. The organisers summarized the main findings during the wrap-up session as well as discussed future ways ahead and how participants could stay in touch after the end of this ECIN workshop.

Across three days, the participants presented and gave feedback on a range of topics, and by bringing together scholars from a range of disciplines, each draft article benefitted from a wide selection of insights. We would like to emphasise how impressed we were with the quality of the comments by the participants and the lively debate culture present during the entire workshop period. In addition, participants were able to network with other up-and-coming scholars and we are likely to see co-authored papers by several of them in the future. The attendees are currently completing final versions of their articles, to be submitted to journals in the very near future.

The workshop was organised Nicole Schmidt and Dr. Paul Tobin, who are members of the Early Career Investigators Network of the COST-funded action INOGOV. The participants owe special thanks to Prof. Dr. Jale Tosun who provided excellent feedback as a resident expert, as well as resident students and Postdocs based at Heidelberg University. The workshop would not have happened without the financial support from INOGOV as well as Field of Focus 4.

Photo credit: Workshop Organisers

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