Academic journal article Environmental Values

Regime Learning in Global Environmental Governance

Academic journal article Environmental Values

Regime Learning in Global Environmental Governance

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

An increasingly complex governance architecture has become a major characteristic of current global environmental governance, often resulting in different degrees of complexity and fragmentation within global environmental regimes. Social learning processes are introduced by scholars and policy makers alike as management approaches for governing complex dynamic systems in situations that feature a high degree of complexity and uncertainty. Scholars argue that actors in complex environmental issue areas can learn in their social context and could develop the necessary knowledge, attitudes and behaviour to enhance their capacity to effectively address the environmental problem. This is where this article picks up the discussion and assesses the impact of a regime's complexity on its learning capabilities. It further identifies major drivers and barriers of regime learning processes in international environmental regimes.

KEYWORDS

Global environmental governance, social learning, international environmental regimes, climate change, ozone depletion

1. INTRODUCTION

Over the past decades, global environmental problems such as global climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer have received increasing attention from the international community of states. Due to their multifaceted and trans-boundary nature, many environmental issue areas require to be co-governed to a greater extent through multiple institutions, organisations, state and non-state actors, often resulting in different degrees of complexity and fragmentation within a regime and the broader governance architecture (Biermann et al., 2009). International environmental regimes are established to address these environmental issue areas (e.g., Young, 1999; Miles et al., 2002).

Social learning processes are increasingly considered by scholars and policy makers alike as suitable approaches for governing complex dynamic systems in situations that feature a high degree of complexity and uncertainty. Scholars argue that actors in complex environmental issue areas can learn in their social context and could hence develop necessary knowledge, attitudes and behaviour to enhance their capacity to effectively address the environmental problem (e.g., Folke et al., 2005; Reed et al., 2010). This article starts out from the understanding that knowledge and social learning processes within international environmental regimes could become drivers for regime evolution and critical factors to increase regime effectiveness in complex governance arenas.

Although hints for social learning processes in international environmental regimes could be found in several studies on regime evolution, design and effectiveness (e.g., Underdal, 2002; Raustiala and Victor, 2004; Oberthur and Stokke, 2011), and social learning is also addressed in research on natural resource management (Reed et al., 2010), thus far only little research has focused on the specific characteristics of social learning processes, its drivers and barriers in international treaty regimes addressing complex global environmental problems. This article focuses on international treaty regimes addressing complex global environmental problems, as these have been established to address the grand environmental challenges of our time but show a 'mixed record in efforts to address problems of environmental governance in international society' (Young, 2011) ranging from being widely regarded as effective, such as the global ozone regime, to fairly challenging, such as the global climate regime. In this context it seeks to connect recent discussions on social learning processes in international environmental regimes with results from research on regime evolution processes, in an attempt to assess the impact of a regime's complexity on its learning capabilities, and tries to identify major drivers and barriers of regime learning processes in international environmental regimes, based on analytical indicators. …

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