Earth System Governance conference in Lund, April 18-20 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

 This week in Lund, Sweden, interdisciplinary social scientists meet to discuss the challenges inherent in earth system governance with a particular focus on issues of equity and accountability.  This group of scholars, generally speaking, is attempting to better understand new models for coordinating action (whether individual or collective) climate change and other environmental problems.  Enthusiasm for international negotiations (like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol) has waned in many quarters, and both scholars and practitioners are seeking creative ways to more effectively pursue both climate change mitigation and adaptation. John Dryzek kicked off the meeting by building on the work of Elinor Ostrom.  Dryzek pulled out a number of themes that are of great relevance to the MC3 project: such as the need for ‘polycentric’ governance, as opposed to traditional top-down, state-centric models.  In order to strengthen this model of governance, however, the following elements are needed: reliable information, trust, good communication, social capital, decentralized monitoring, a long time horizon, perception of the common resource (ie stable climate, clean water) as important, and linkages with other benefits (such as cost savings, biodiversity etc). Dryzek adds that more is needed than simply an ever-expanding number and variety of climate or environmental governance strategies.  Rather, we must ensure that various initiatives connect up with one another and actually amount to something.  This theme recurred in conversation following Dryzek’s talk, during which various attendees raised the critical question of criteria for ‘success’ of polycentric environmental governance, and the role of social learning in driving transformative change.   This is exactly the focus of MC3, in which we explore the transformative potential of nascent (but accelerating) community-based climate change innovations.