A view of a city from the top of a mountain, highlighting polycentric climate governance.

Call for Papers

Polycentric Climate Governance after Paris: Expectations, Challenges and Pathways

Junior Researcher Conference at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS)

12–14 April 2018 (New Date!), University of Freiburg

With the Paris Agreement, the international community has entered a new era of climate governance. One particularly important aspect is the crucial role that non-state actors will play in driving global climate action, thereby increasingly blurring the line between public and private climate governance. Polycentric climate governance is characterised by network structures, covering multi-stakeholder participation and epistemic expertise, which ideally lead to innovative policy outcomes. However, with more dispersed and dynamic constellations of authority, critical questions arise about the legitimacy and effectiveness of polycentric governance arrangements with non-state actors. The conference aims at gaining a deeper understanding of the extent to which polycentric climate governance can successfully address climate change challenges.

What to expect

The conference is designed in a way to encourage PhD and Post-Doc researchers to proactively engage with prominent senior researchers of their field. The workshop offers various possibilities for face-to-face interaction and discussions. By offering a diverse set of innovative methods of instruction and exchange, we aim for a conducive learning atmosphere that inspires novel perspectives and long-lasting networks. The workshop is organised in cooperation with the Early Career Investigators’ Network (ECIN) of the INOGOV Network. The official program will be accompanied by exciting side events, including a Science Slam and a guided tour through the city of Freiburg. Bringing together several leading senior scientists and ambitious young researchers, this event is sought to serve as the basis for further research exchange or collaboration. One immediate output will be a policy brief to be published in the INOGOV Policy Brief Series.


  • Submission of abstracts will be open until 31 October 2017
  • Notification of acceptance will be given in November 2017
  • Draft papers (max. 3000 words) will be due by February 2018

How to apply

The abstract should describe the objective, background, theory and methods as well as the expected insights (if available already). The purpose of this workshop is to discuss and reflect upon important questions concerning complex actor constellations within polycentric climate governance.

We invite proposals with a focus on the following four themes and guiding questions:

  1. How to analyze legitimacy? – Acceptability and acceptance of new authority constellations: Non-state actors such as NGOs, cities, companies or standard-setting organizations are involved in the agenda-setting, design, implementation and monitoring of climate policies. With that, they hold a considerable amount of authority at the transnational level, which challenges traditional legitimacy concepts. Thus, novel theoretical conceptualizations are needed. Papers may either focus on democratic legitimacy beyond the state or socially constructed (de-)legitimation processes. A theoretical reflection in how far normative and sociological legitimacy dimensions are interlinked or applied research that operationalizes legitimacy in empirical cases is also welcome.
  2. Mind the gap – Ways of integrating polycentric governance: Polycentric climate governance offers many potentially innovative ways for accelerating cooperative action on climate change. At the same time, the actor base and available modes for action are significantly broadened – potentially leading to institutional complexity, fragmentation or a loss in democratic control. We invite conceptual, analytical and empirical papers that address questions of governance and actor integration (or: “orchestration”, “concertation” etc.) across sectors or policy levels. Possible questions are: How exactly do different governance settings interact / coordinate their efforts? What approaches are successfully used to orchestrate or integrate different climate actions in practice? How can institutional designs, like partnerships, brokers or secretariats, enhance cross-governance integration and orchestration towards more effective (or socially acceptable) policy outputs?
  3. Between self-interest and common good: What role for private actors in global climate governance? In recent years, the climate-related activities of private actors have profoundly changed and multiplied: Both multinational companies and intermediary institutions (such as banks, pension funds or cooperatives) do not only invest in mitigation and adaptation projects, but also develop, implement and evaluate various forms of climate action on the ground. The different tasks and functions of private actors in and for global climate governance raise the following questions: How do we theoretically assess their expanded role? Under which conditions can private activities improve global climate governance and create win-win scenarios? What are the challenges and pitfalls, especially with regard to the cooperation between private and public actors?
  4. Knowledge for action: What role for “expertise” in global climate governance? Climate governance heavily relies on knowledge from different actors like national delegates, scientists, practitioners, auditors, indigenous peoples, citizens or consultants, adding to the polycentricism of the policy domain. Principally, expertise is crucial to take informed decisions; however, high complexity and uncertainty make it increasingly hard to delineate facts from values. In light of the political charge and contestation of expertise in climate governance, questions arise as to how science and policy can actually be (better) integrated. In this session, we are interested in theoretical and empirical contributions investigating the different (normative or analytical) roles that experts and knowledge play in climate governance as in work that analyzes the different “authoritative” and effective ways of how knowledge is created and facilitated and eventually integrated in climate action.

In addition, we welcome papers that fit the larger context of polycentric governance and related political and practical challenges.

Please send an abstract (max. 500 words) and a short motivation letter to climate.gov.workshop@mail.uni-freiburg.de before 31 October 2017.


See here for more details of the workshop.

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