Studies on stability and change in modes of environmental governance often remain implicit regarding the conceptualisation, nature and causes of stability and change. Moreover, they are selective in the addressed explanatory factors. Theorising of stability and change in modes of environmental governance could be brought to the next level by enhancing the comparability and alignment of explanatory studies. This paper aims to contribute to this effort using insights regarding the definition and explanation of change processes gained in the policy and political sciences. Based on these insights, we provide a systematic approach for conceptualising “stability” and “change” in modes of governance and introduce six categories of explanatory factors: physical circumstances, infrastructures, institutional settings, discourse, characteristics of agency and shock events. The case of Dutch flood risk governance shows the usefulness of the proposed approach. We conclude by reflecting on the approach’s potential for providing richer and more nuanced explanations.