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Valuing the Contributions of Nonstate and Subnational Actors to Climate Governance

van der Ven, Hamish, Steven Bernstein and Matthew Hoffmann. 2017. Valuing the Contributions of Nonstate and Subnational Actors to Climate Governance. Global Environmental Politics, 17(1): 1-20.


Nonstate and subnational climate governance activities are proliferating. Alongside them are databases and registries that attempt to calculate their contributions to global decarbonization. We label these registries “orchestration platforms” insofar as they both aggregate disparate initiatives and attempt to steer them toward overarching objectives such as improved transparency, accountability, and effectiveness. While well-intentioned, many orchestration platforms adopt a narrow conception of “value” as either quantifiable greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions or relevant outputs. We offer a more comprehensive approach to valuing nonstate and subnational climate governance that is rooted in recognizing the potential for initiatives to become far-reaching (i.e., achieve scale) and durable (i.e., become entrenched). We illustrate the comparative advantage of our approach with reference to a particular case of nonstate governance: The Carbon Trust’s attempt to create product carbon footprints. By tracing the direct and indirect impacts of product carbon footprinting, we show that initial failures to generate GHG reductions or produce relevant outputs do not reflect the intervention’s broader impacts through scaling to other jurisdictions and entrenching business practices that contribute to decarbonization. Taking this broader view of “value” can help policy-makers better understand and gauge the contribution of nonstate and subnational climate governance to global decarbonization.

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