ASTK18395U Transnationalism in Global Climate Politics

Volume 2021/2022

Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS


According to the UN, 18,279 sub-national and non-state actors were involved in 27,174 actions in 2020 to address climate change and advance the goals of the Paris Agreement. Today, such 'transnational' actors and forms of governance are central to global climate change politics. This course examines these developments through the lens of broader debates about transnationalism in world politics. We will explore how and under what conditions sub-national and non-state actors such as cities, corporations, NGOs, and scientific networks have become central to global efforts to address climate change. We will consider the diverse forms of transnational governance led by these actors and the relationship of these initiatives to multilateral treaties and other state-based forms of climate change regulation. We will review efforts to assess whether transnationalism contributes to a more effective global response to climate change and reflect on the normative issues raised as transnational actors and forms of governance become more deeply embedded in global climate politics. Students will complete several learning activities applying diverse theories, concepts and methodologies to analyze specific transnational actors and initiatives.

Indicative topics:

  1. Introduction to transnational climate action
  2. The transnational turn in global climate politics
  3. Survey of transnational actors
  4. Transnational activism and diplomacy at the UN
  5. The climate justice movement
  6. Democratization of global climate governance?
  7. Survey of transnational governance initiatives
  8. Private authority
  9. Transnational municipal networks
  10. Linkages to the UN climate regime
  11. Polycentricity and complexity
  12. Normative issues in transnational climate governance
  13. Assessing the effectiveness of transnational climate governance
  14. Transnationalism and transformation in global climate governance


Learning Outcome


Students will be able to

  • Give an account of the various types of actors and activities that constitute the field of transnational climate change politics
  • Identify the interrelationships between transnational actors and forms of governance and the UN climate regime.
  • Understand and reflect on the conditions that have given rise to transnationalism in global climate politics and its consequences for the global governance of climate change.



Students will be able to 

  • Identify and assess different theoretical and methodological approaches used in the study of transnationalism in global climate politics
  • Apply theoretical and methodological approaches to conduct empirical analysis of transnational actors and governance initiatives related to climate change



Students will learn

  • Critical thinking
  • Independent working
  • Oral communication and writing


Abbott, K.W., 2012. The transnational regime complex for climate change. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy30(4), pp.571-590. (20 pp)

Allan, J.I. and Hadden, J., 2017. Exploring the framing power of NGOs in global climate politics. Environmental Politics, 26(4), pp.600-620. (21 pp)

Andonova, L.B., Betsill, M.M. and Bulkeley, H., 2009. Transnational climate governance. Global environmental politics9(2), pp.52-73. (22 pp)

Andonova, L.B., Hale, T.N. and Roger, C.B., 2017. National policy and transnational governance of climate change: Substitutes or complements?. International Studies Quarterly61(2), pp.253-268. (16 pp)

Avant, D.C., M. Finnemore, and S. Sell. 2010. Who Governs the Globe? In Who Governs the Globe? D. Avant, M. Finnermore and S. Sell, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-34. (34 pp)

Bäckstrand, K., Kuyper, J.W., Linnér, B.O. and Lövbrand, E., 2017. Non-state actors in global climate governance: from Copenhagen to Paris and beyond. Environmental Politics 4: 561-579. (19 pp)

Bernstein, S. and Hoffmann, M., 2019. Climate politics, metaphors and the fractal carbon trap. Nature Climate Change9(12), pp.919-925. (7 pp)

Betsill, M. M. 2015. NGOs. In Research Handbook on Climate Governance, K. Bäckstrand and E. Lövbrand, eds. Elgar. Pp. 251-61 (11 pp)

Bulkeley, H., Andonova, L., Bäckstrand, K., Betsill, M., Compagnon, D., Duffy, R., Kolk, A., Hoffmann, M., Levy, D., Newell, P. and Milledge, T., 2012. Governing climate change transnationally: assessing the evidence from a database of sixty initiatives. Environment and planning C: Government and Policy30(4), pp.591-612. (22 pp)

Bulkeley, H., Betsill, M.M., Compagnon, D., Hale, T., Hoffmann, M.J., Newell, P. and Paterson, M., 2018. Transnational governance: charting new directions post-Paris. In Governing Climate Change: Polycentricity in Action, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 63-81. (19 pp)

Chan, S., Boran, I., van Asselt, H., Iacobuta, G., Niles, N., Rietig, K., Scobie, M., Bansard, J.S., Delgado Pugley, D., Delina, L.L. and Eichhorn, F., 2019. Promises and risks of nonstate action in climate and sustainability governance. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change10(3), p.e572. (8 pp)

Chan, S., Brandi, C. and Bauer, S., 2016. Aligning transnational climate action with international climate governance: The road from Paris. Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law25(2), pp.238-247. (10 pp)

Chan, S., Falkner, R., Goldberg, M. and Van Asselt, H., 2018. Effective and geographically balanced? An output-based assessment of non-state climate actions. Climate Policy18(1), pp.24-35. (10 pp)

Chan, S., van Asselt, H., Hale, T., Abbott, K.W., Beisheim, M., Hoffmann, M., Guy, B., Höhne, N., Hsu, A., Pattberg, P. and Pauw, P., 2015. Reinvigorating international climate policy: A comprehensive framework for effective nonstate action. Global Policy6(4), pp.466-473. (8 pp)

Ciplet, D., 2014. Contesting climate injustice: Transnational advocacy network struggles for rights in UN climate politics. Global Environmental Politics14(4), pp.75-96. (22 pp)

Cobut, L., Orsini, A., Biedenkopf, K., Blondeel, M., Fuchs, G., Kavvatha, E., Misonne, D., Niet, I. and Papin, M., 2019. Focusing on non-state actions instead of non-state actors in the context

of sustainability transitions. Global Policy, (October), pp.11-18. (8 pp)

Cole, D.H., 2015. Advantages of a polycentric approach to climate change policy. Nature Climate Change5(2), pp.114-118. (5 pp)

Dzebo, A. and Stripple, J., 2015. Transnational adaptation governance: An emerging fourth era of adaptation. Global Environmental Change35, pp.423-435. (13 pp)

Fisher, D.R., 2010. COP-15 in Copenhagen: How the merging of movements left civil society out in the cold. Global Environmental Politics10(2), pp.11-17. (7 pp)

Gordon, D.J. and Johnson, C.A., 2018. City-networks, global climate governance, and the road to 1.5 C. Current opinion in environmental sustainability30, pp.35-41. (7 pp)

Green, J.F., 2013. Order out of chaos: public and private rules for managing carbon. Global Environmental Politics13(2), pp.1-25. (25 pp)

Hale, T., 2020. Transnational actors and transnational governance in global environmental politics. Annual review of political science23, pp.203-220. (18 pp)

Hale, T.N., Chan, S., Hsu, A., Clapper, A., Elliott, C., Faria, P., Kuramochi, T., McDaniel, S., Morgado, M., Roelfsema, M. and Santaella, M., 2021. Sub-and non-state climate action: A framework to assess progress, implementation and impact. Climate Policy21(3), pp.406-420. (15 pp)

Hsu, A., Brandt, J., Widerberg, O., Chan, S. and Weinfurter, A., 2020. Exploring links between national climate strategies and non-state and subnational climate action in nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Climate Policy20(4), pp.443-457. (15 pp)

Jordan, A.J., Huitema, D., Hildén, M., Van Asselt, H., Rayner, T.J., Schoenefeld, J.J., Tosun, J., Forster, J. and Boasson, E.L., 2015. Emergence of polycentric climate governance and its future prospects. Nature Climate Change5(11), pp.977-982. (6 pp)

Kern, K. and Bulkeley, H., 2009. Cities, Europeanization and multi‐level governance: governing climate change through 

transnational municipal networks. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies47(2), pp.309-332. (24 pp)

Kuyper, J.W., Linnér, B.O. and Schroeder, H., 2018. Non‐state actors in hybrid global climate governance: justice, legitimacy, and effectiveness in a post‐Paris era. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change9(1), p.e497. (18 pp)

Marion Suiseeya, K.R., Zanotti, L. and Haapala, K., 2021. Navigating the spaces between human rights and justice: cultivating Indigenous representation in global environmental governance. The Journal of Peasant Studies, pp.1-25. (25 pp)

Nasiritousi, N., Hjerpe, M. and Linnér, B.O., 2016. The roles of non-state actors in climate change governance: understanding agency through governance profiles. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics16(1), pp.109-126. (18 pp)

Nielsen, A.B. and Papin, M., 2021. The hybrid governance of environmental transnational municipal networks: Lessons from 100 Resilient Cities. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space39(4), pp. 667-685. (19 pp)

Okereke, C., Bulkeley, H. and Schroeder, H., 2009. Conceptualizing climate governance beyond the international regime. Global environmental politics9(1), pp.58-78. (21 pp)

Ostrom, E., 2010. Polycentric systems for coping with collective action and global environmental change. Global environmental change20(4), pp.550-557. (8 pp)

Roger, C. and Dauvergne, P., 2016. The rise of transnational governance as a field of study. International Studies Review18(3), pp.415-437. (23 pp)

Thew, H., 2018. Youth participation and agency in the United Nations framework convention on climate change. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics18(3), pp.369-389. (21 pp)

Van der Ven, H., Bernstein, S. and Hoffmann, M., 2017. Valuing the contributions of nonstate and subnational actors to climate governance. Global Environmental Politics17(1), pp.1-20. (21 pp)

Widerberg, O. and Pattberg, P., 2017. Accountability challenges in the transnational regime complex for climate change. Review of Policy Research34(1), pp.68-87. (20 pp)

Classes will be interactive. They will combine group work, discussion and lecture-style elements. They will actively engage with a variety of texts.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester



7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Free Written Assignement
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

In the semester where the course takes place: Free written assignment

In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment

Criteria for exam assesment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner