Article by Vanesa Castan Broto discussing questions explored in her latest paper with Linda Westman on climate change MLG (multi-level governance) in Rizhao, China.

We all agree that climate change requires an urgent and coordinated response to bring about a socio-economic transformation capable of keeping temperature changes within acceptable levels. However, how do we go about it? Scholars of climate change governance have long been engaged in an inquiry to explain who can (or who should) respond to climate change and how it should be done.

Multi-level governance is a well-establish paradigm in climate change governance. The last IPCC Special Report (“on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty”) states, already in the summary for policymakers that addressing climate change requires ‘accountable multilevel governance’ including a variety of state and non-state actors and institutions from the government, industry, civil society and scientific institutions.

However, is multi-level governance a paradigm that applies in every case of climate change governance? Can multi-level governance have detrimental effects regarding delivering low carbon, climate resilient outputs? These are the questions investigated by Linda Westman and Vanesa Castán Broto in their last paper for the journal Political Geography. The paper examines the details of a climate transition in the city of Rizhao, in China, to demonstrate that multi-level governance thinking may be unsuitable to explain how climate change governance occurs. Taken the case of climate action in a semi-authoritarian political context, the paper suggests that an overall emphasis on multi-level governance as a process of institutional deliberation may leave outside of the equation key aspects of deliberative and collaborative governance which were central to the emergence of the multi-level governance paradigm. This way of thinking not only reduces the explanatory value of the multi-level governance theory but also may lead to normative conclusions which are not in line with the overall aspiration of delivering climate-resilient pathways of development in an equitable manner.

Full paper available here: