Theme 5: Global governance for sustainability

Sustainability is high on the agenda of global public, business and civil society actors: the expected adoption of the Millenium Development Goals (2015-2030), the increased commitment of multinational agribusiness companies to zero-deforestation, and the call for new forms of public-private governance of sustainability, all signal this.

International negotiations on the SDGs

This topic focuses on the actors, negotiations and institutions that have shaped the development of the SDGs as a policy framework. Different questions are relevant: what international norms and strategic considerations have been used or developed for this framework? to what extent lessons learnt from the development of the MDGs have been used in developing the SDGs? Can the SDGs be seen as a policy nexus to newly link sectoral policies on climate, agriculture, food, water, energy? What multi-level and multi-actor governance arrangements have been proposed or can be developed to realize the SDGs? (contact persons: Dr Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, Dr Otto Hospes).

New initiatives and roles of non-state actors

The SDGs will require new thinking of and about business and civil society actors on their leading role in governing global value chains through non-state market driven systems or global private-civil partnerships. As the effectiveness of such systems and partnerships is very much dependent on government policies and capacities, both public and private actors will have to reflect on public-private synergies and next generations of governance arrangements for global value chains (contact person: Dr Otto Hospes).

Pathways of influence

The SDGs will be adopted as recommendations, soft law, and therefore entirely voluntary for states and other actors to implement. They are expected, however, to be accompanied by a set of detailed indicators and a system of reporting that will enable some form of accountability system. Will this be enough to ‘compliance’? How and why will the SDGs influence actors; states, international organizations, NGOs and private actors? These types of questions relate to theories of international relations and their answers can feed into an active global debate around SDGs and accountability in global governance (contact person: Dr Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen).

Global energy governance

Energy has for long been framed as an issue of national security, making international collaboration difficult and for long time negligible. This is slowly changing as soft norms emerge around Sustainable Energy for All (UN Decade) and a possible energy goal in the SDGs, as well as the recently established International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Additional efforts are made by actors such as G20 and G7. There are a number of theoretical (international relations, political philosophy etc.) and empirical questions that can be asked around the influence (effectiveness) and legitimacy of these emerging efforts of intergovernmental collaboration on energy (contact person: Dr Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen).

Global climate change governance

The UN climate regime centred around the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is well known and many researchers give it due attention but there are many questions yet to be answered. Some of these circle around accountability, linked to reporting, transparency etc. Others link to issues of equity, fairness or justice in terms of process and outcome of the process (contact person: Dr Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen).

Local energy issues with global dimensions

When new energy technologies such as hydraulic fracturing for shale gas extraction – but also renewable sources - are ready for implementation, future choices become more urgent: citizens and their governments begin to ask themselves do we continue to invest in fossil fuels or are we ready to jump into a more sustainable energy future by investing in other energy sources? These debates manifest in localities where  energy production facilities are sited; but also globally over issues such as climate change and CO2 emissions, and energy markets. The results of the debates – that is whether or not citizens and their governments make a commitment to transition to renewable energy depends largely on how shale gas develop – and fracking as a contested technology – are understood.  In this track, thesis address this carbon lock-in, and the barriers it proposes to an energy transition, and alternative ways of future-thinking about energy consumption and production (contact person: Dr Tamara Metze).