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Polycentric Carbon Pricing Governance

Katja Biedenkopf

Tuesday, September 12 2017

12:00 - 1:00 PM


For the fall 2017 inaugural Global Sustainability Forum, the Center for Global Sustainability welcomed Dr. Katja Biedenkopf, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Leuven in Belgium, who presented her work on policy diffusion, infusion, and the linkages within polycentric carbon pricing governance.

Dr. Biedenkopf opened her discussion with a question: “How and why do policies, policy-makers and non-state actors interact to ratchet up global climate mitigation ambition to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system?”

During her presentation she introduced the concept of “polycentric governance” -- a systems level approach to viewing how individual, but interdependent policies influence each other and overlap multiple jurisdictions with multiple authorities -- and discussed various carbon pricing policies used around the world.

“There is a large share of global greenhouse gas emissions covered [by carbon pricing policies], but that does not tell you anything about the ambition of the targets,” added Dr. Biedenkopf as she presented the evolution and rise of carbon policies globally. The two major carbon pricing policies that have been adopted by various international and state players are cap-and-trade policies and carbon taxes.

“You can take two different perspectives when you think of a policy spreading globally: policy diffusion and policy infusion,”  Dr. Biedenkopf explained. Policy diffusion is the process of spreading a policy adopted by one country to other actors. Policy infusion looks at how the late adopters of carbon pricing policies incorporate lessons learned and aspects of other’s policies into their own.

Dr. Biedenkopf ended with a case study from China about capacity building projects in the area of emissions trading. By inventorying documented projects and conducting stakeholder interviews, she and her colleagues developed a web-like visual mapping of the coordination centers and links of the polycentric model in China.

The findings of the Chinese case study show that there are key actors who are especially integral to helping implement carbon pricing policies in China and more work needs to be done in figuring out how to leverage these players effectively while not diminishing the actions of the other actors.