Governing Climate Change – By Harriet Bulkeley and Peter Newell; Making Climate Change Work for Us: European Perspectives on Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies – Edited by Mike Hulme and Henry Neufeldt


Governing Climate Change . London : Routledge . xix + 142 pages . ISBN 978-0-415-46769-8 , $29.95 paper . Harriet Bulkeley and Peter Newell . 2010 .

Making Climate Change Work for Us: European Perspectives on Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies . Cambridge : Cambridge University Press . xxxii + 413 pages . ISBN 978-0-521-11941-2 , $96.97 hardcover . Mike Hulme and Henry Neufeldt ( Eds .). 2010 .


The climate politics and policy literature has developed over the past decade into a virtual subfield of its own and now boasts innovative work across levels of scholarship, from general readership introductory texts through technical policy-prescriptive research reports. In fact, the literature is beginning to mirror the complexity and importance of the challenge it discusses. To effectively address, and frankly live with, climate change, transformation at many levels—individual behavior, policy development and implementation, large-scale political-economic structures, and technological systems—will be necessary in the coming decades. Climate change policy scholarship needs to engage at all of these levels, providing broad introductions to the challenge as well as detailed policy analysis of solutions in many areas and at many scales.

The two books considered here are crucial and accomplished works that engage different aspects of this scholarly project. The Bulkeley and Newell book is at one end of a spectrum, a smart, broad overview of climate change governance that is written in an engaging style. It is perfect for courses on environmental politics and international relations, for people outside the academy interested in a readable translation of the state-of-the-art understanding of climate politics, and for scholars looking for innovative thinking on climate politics. The Hulme and Neufeldt volume is at the other end. This is a collection of technical and detailed analyses of multiple aspects of climate policy in Europe and beyond. It is perfect for advanced students, scholars, and policy makers who want to be at the very cutting edge of climate policy, especially in Europe. It is a sign of the growing maturity of the climate politics and policy literature that it is producing such high quality work across this spectrum.

The Contours of Climate Governance

The Bulkeley and Newell monograph is part of Routledge's series on global institutions—brief introductions to a range of international institutions conceived in both narrow (i.e., actual organizations like the United Nation's Security Council) and broad (i.e., Regional Security) terms—but, this work is not a mere basic introduction to the functioning (or malfunctioning) of the international climate regime. On the contrary, the authors provide a comprehensive picture of climate governance that incorporates both the traditional analysis of multilateral treaty-making efforts and the innovative governance measures that have emerged transnationally, locally, and in the private sector.

Their analysis begins with a cogent summary of the science and history of multilateral negotiations as well as a discussion that situates climate change in a North–South context and addresses crucial questions of equity. However, rather than this forming the bulk of the book, as is often the case with introductory reviews of climate change, it is instead the foundation for a more wide-ranging analysis. Drawing on both the advantages and shortcoming of regime and global governance perspectives, they provide a coherent way to conceptualize the global response to climate change by reconceptualizing conventional thinking about the climate change problem and the nature of global politics and governance. They describe their tasks as consisting of:

acknowledging the multi-scale, multi-actor and embedded nature of the climate governance challenge, by opening up our analysis of the sites of climate governance, considering the relation between state and non-state actors in terms of who is governing climate change, examining the processes through which climate governance is being achieved, and using alternative concepts of power in order to understand why, and with what consequences, climate governance is taking place. (p. 15)

This is an enormous agenda and one that cannot be fully accomplished in a brief 114-page monograph, but Bulkeley and Newell's goals and directions are the correct ones—climate change does challenge conventional understanding of governance and politics and our scholarship and teaching must adjust to this reality. Fully articulating and analyzing the dynamics just mentioned is not the goal of the book, rather the re-conceptualization itself and outlining the scholarly and practical challenges inherent in the new perspective is the accomplishment both sought and achieved. Further, it is achieved in a way that is useful for both students and scholars seeking to understand where the study of global climate governance needs to go.

Chapters 3–5 are crucial in this respect in that they introduce and analyze how governance of climate change is proceeding beyond the traditional multilateral channels. Through both general discussion and the use of brief, focused examples, they reveal how transnational, local community-based, and private sector initiatives have emerged and sought to govern climate change. The authors delineate three types of transnational initiatives that look to address climate change outside the formal international process by linking actors across national borders—networks of cities and subnational governments, public–private partnerships, and corporate efforts at self-regulation. At the community level, the focus is on truly grassroots efforts to address climate change like community forest management and the Transition Towns movement. Private governance examines efforts toward self-regulation and the nascent emergence of carbon markets.

The strength of the volume is found in Bulkeley and Newell's delineation of these new governance actors and dynamics combined with their analysis of the challenges that these arrangements face. The chapters that map these three aspects of the governance landscape also address how these new types of governance raise and deal with crucial questions of effectiveness, accountability, and equity. The concluding chapter then brings the discussion back to big questions of what is new in climate governance and the ways in which the experience of governing climate change alters (or should alter) our broader understanding of global politics and governance. This book is a wonderful teaching tool in addition to being a valuable contribution to the scholarly literature. It challenges students and scholars alike to engage the obstacles and opportunities often found in the expanding realm of climate governance.

Drilling Down on European Climate Governance and Policy

The Hulme and Neufeldt volume is a report from the ambitious European Commission's Adaptation and Mitigations Strategies research project. This project has brought together 100 scholars in a common, if diversely pursued, purpose: understanding “the best strategies for European climate policy, covering adaptation, mitigation, and in some cases the interaction between the two” (p. 370). The volume is impressive in both its scope and detail. Where Bulkeley and Newell set the contours of the global response to climate change, the authors in the Hulme and Neufeldt volume provided a fine-grained analysis of European climate policy. Through at times overwhelming empirical detail, the book reveals the breadth of the challenge that climate change presents to policy makers and publics while also assessing the policies undertaken in Europe and prescribing strategies for moving forward.

The four chapters that comprise the first section are intended to serve as a foundation for thinking about climate policy in Europe. Two of the chapters address the policy process in Europe—discussing policy appraisal dynamics—setting and evaluating policy goals and processes—in one instance, and the notion of social learning in the policy process in another. The other two chapters present state-of-the-art climate modeling scenarios (that incorporate both adaptation and mitigation) that lay out possible futures for climate change and climate change policy in Europe. The second section undertakes an examination of what has and could be done in European climate policy in specific areas. One chapter reports on an impressive examination of 262 evaluations of European Union (EU) climate policies. The other three focus in on the energy system, the response to floods and droughts, and land use and water management policies. In each chapter, strategic use of modeling and detailed case studies combine to produce lessons learned and future directions for EU policy, paying particular attention to both adaptation and mitigation and, crucially, the linkages between the two. The final section looks to the broader context of EU climate policy and includes chapters that analyze the global political and economic forces that provide both challenges and opportunities for European action.

The chapters all provide pieces of the puzzle that is European climate change policy and assembling these pieces makes the book a worthy addition to the literature; however, the challenge for a volume like this is integration. I do not mean integration in the clichéd sense of lacking a unifying theoretical perspective or structure—such a critique does not apply here precisely because the point is not a coherent perspective on European policy, but instead detailed analyses of the range of activities in European climate policy. If anything, the common theme that runs through the volume—that mitigation and adaptation are equally important and linked—is one of the key contributions of the book. That said, however, while there are attempts to have the chapters speak to one another, too few of the chapters build upon one another and even the modeling scenarios meant to be a common foundation are too rarely used in a foundational way. The pieces are impressive (each chapter could be a journal article given their rigor), but the larger story is left for the reader to construct.

Authors of the synthesis chapter work to address this challenge and they discuss five themes or metaphors that emerge from the analyses and that can serve as focal points for the push forward on climate policy. The lessons are cogent and relevant, but they are a bit broad (e.g., get to work on both adaptation and mitigation now, work to induce technological change quickly, and do not be too tempted by “low-hanging fruit”) and none are earth-shattering or counterintuitive. The volume is important not as much for the synthesis (because many of these lessons are known), but because the chapters that comprise it lay out the practicalities and challenges of making policies designed (and struggle) to carry out the lessons. What makes it a worthwhile contribution are the state-of-the-art analyses on which practical discussions of climate policy can be motivated and how it stands almost alone in treating adaptation and mitigation with equal consideration—not just as separate aspects of climate policy but as aspects of the climate change challenge that are inextricably linked.


That the literature on climate politics and policy has progressed to the point where it is producing both of these books—works at a similar and high level of quality but at different levels of analysis and audience—is heartening indeed. As the world faces this most difficult of challenges, engaging with climate change at all levels will be necessary and these two books demonstrate that the academy is up to the task of providing the raw materials necessary for not only scholarly studies of climate change, but also with public and policy engagement with climate change.