Call for abstracts closed. See here for blog post from workshop.

Enhancing legitimacy in polycentric climate governance: opportunities and challenges

The European University Institute’s Global Governance Programme, together with the political science departments of Lund University and Stockholm University, invites applications for their international workshop on legitimacy in polycentric climate governance. The workshop is financed by the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Action INOGOV, an international network of research excellence on ‘Innovations in Climate Governance’. For more information see

Confirmed keynote speakers include Professor Robert Keohane from Princeton University. The workshop aims to bring together both established and early career scholars from a variety of disciplines that address questions of legitimacy and climate politics – including, but not limited to, international relations and political science, legal studies, economics, sociology, human geography.

It has been claimed that the 2009 United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen sparked a legitimacy crisis for global climate diplomacy, and reinforced the deadlock in negotiations as we head toward a potential new climate agreement in Paris 2015. At the same time, the emergence of governance innovations – clubs, subnational and transnational arrangements – alter the way in which climate governance is accessible, functioning and perceived today. New climate policies and institutions may provide new platforms to involve stakeholders, but may also exclude others by shifting centres of gravity towards specific policies or confined institutions, raising questions of accountability, representation and inclusion.

The purpose of this workshop is to offer the first systematic and comprehensive analysis of legitimacy in an increasingly complex climate governance landscape. Based on a broad concept that allows for different understandings and dimensions of legitimacy, we invite proposals – with a more theoretical focus as well as case studies – in the form of paper abstracts on the following themes and questions:

  • Taking stock: To what extent is the growingly complex climate governance architecture legitimate (in terms of normative legitimacy) or regarded as legitimate (in terms of sociological legitimacy) in normative or sociological terms? To what degree do new public and transnational institutions differ in terms of their normative or sociological legitimacy? How does the fragmented governance architecture comply with legal norms within the EU and beyond? And within this polycentric governance landscape, to what extent is the European Union perceived as a legitimate and effective climate leader with respect to its internal and external policies? In methodological terms, how can we assess the standards – normative, sociological, and legal – against which the legitimacy of a complex governance landscape can be assessed?
  • Sources and Consequences: What are the sources of normative legitimacy by which new forms of climate governance should be measured? Which strategies of sociological legitimation or delegitimation are adopted in practice? How do policy innovation and polycentricity affect both the input and output legitimacy of the climate governance architecture? How does the emergence of governance innovations affect the legitimacy of established institutions, especially the UNFCCC? To which degree has the design of governance innovations been shaped by the desire to increase sociological legitimacy? To what extent are institutions designed to meet or manage contested forms of legality across multi-level jurisdictions? How can we explain these developments with the help of theory-guided analysis from different disciplines? Which actors or objectives benefit from a changing climate governance landscape, and which ones might be disadvantaged?
  • New Directions: Which challenges does the growing polycentricity of climate governance set for prescriptive understandings of legitimacy? How can novel policies enhance different dimensions of legitimacy of the complex climate governance architecture? How can states or the EU provide legitimacy-building leadership in the polycentric system of climate governance, by acting in collective interests?

The workshop format allows for an intensive one-hour feedback for each submitted paper by a designated discussant and the other participants. To this end, we will restrict the number of papers for the workshop to 12-14, plus keynote speeches.

As a major product of this workshop, we plan a special issue in a prestigious academic journal in the field of international relations and / or global environmental governance. A second outcome will be a policy brief in which the convenors will summarize workshop results, including on novel policy options for enhancing legitimacy in global climate governance. Further details will be announced at the workshop.

To submit a proposal, send a 500 words abstract, a short biographical note, and full contact information by email to Ina Möller ( before January 15, 2016. You may also indicate in your e-mail if you apply for financial support for your travel and accommodation costs if you are based in a COST-INOGOV member country.[1] For limited cases, financial support for participants from other countries is also available.

Authors will be informed of the outcomes of the review process by February 19, 2016. Selected candidates are expected to send a complete version of their papers (between 6,000 and 10,000 words) by May 6, 2015 at the latest. Authors who fail to send their paper on time will be removed from the programme. Those authors interested in joining the envisaged special journal issue should provide final drafts of their contributions, based on the feedback they received at the workshop, by September 16, 2016.

Workshop organisers:

Dr. Fariborz Zelli, Associate Professor, Lund University

Professor Karin Bäckstrand, Stockholm University

Dr. Philip Schleifer, Max Weber Fellow, European University Institute

[1] COST Action IS1309 INOGOV includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey United Kingdom.

Photo credit: vic xia/Flickr

One Comment, RSS

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    I accept the Privacy Policy

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.