The transnational regime complex for climate change

Kenneth Abbott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

295 Scopus citations


In climate change, as in other areas, recent years have produced a 'Cambrian explosion' of transnational institutions, standards, financing arrangements, and programs. As a result, climate governance has become complex, fragmented, and decentralized, operating without central coordination. Most studies of climate governance focus on interstate institutions. In contrast, I map a different realm of climate change governance: the diverse array of transnational schemes. I analyze this emerging system in terms of two theoretical frameworks developed to describe, explain, and evaluate complex governance arrangements- regime complex theory and polycentric governance theory-revealing fruitful avenues for positive and normative research. I conclude by arguing that the benefits of institutional complexity could be increased, and the costs reduced, through nonhierarchical 'orchestration' of climate change governance, in which international organizations or other appropriate authorities support and steer transnational schemes that further global public interests.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-590
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironment and Planning C: Government and Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2012


  • Climate change
  • Governance
  • Institutional fragmentation
  • Multiscalar governance
  • Nonstate actors
  • Orchestration
  • Polycentric governance
  • Regime complex
  • Soft law
  • Transnational governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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