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Boosting the legitimacy of global climate governance: How can meta-deliberation help?

Jonathan Pickering, University of Canberra

Tue 13 September 2016

11:00am - 12:00pm

The Dryzek Room, Building 22, University of Canberra


Many commentators have voiced concerns about the legitimacy of the multilateral climate change regime due to its limited progress in slowing greenhouse gas pollution as well as its cumbersome decision-making processes. Recent accounts of deliberative democracy argue that, in order to be legitimate, deliberative systems must cultivate a capacity for “meta-deliberation”, namely critical reflection about the nature, scope and structure of the deliberative system itself. Stevenson and Dryzek (2014) conclude that the climate regime lacks sufficient capacity for meta-deliberation. Yet, the concept of meta-deliberation requires further theoretical elaboration, and more in-depth empirical analysis is needed on the conditions under which meta-deliberation could work in practice.

In this paper I outline an account of meta-deliberation and compare it with related concepts such as reflexivity and meta-governance. I argue that one important function of meta-deliberation is to deliberate about the extent to which decision-making processes are centralised or decentralised (“polycentric”). I then apply this analytical framework to a case study of meta-deliberation about one prominent aspect of the global climate regime in which decision-making arrangements are significantly fragmented: funding to assist developing countries’ efforts to address climate change.

I present preliminary results of a case study of the Standing Committee on Finance, which was established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010 to improve coherence and coordination in the delivery of climate finance. Drawing on documentary analysis and observation of a recent Forum held by the Committee in the Philippines, the case study assesses the Committee’s potential to engage in meta-deliberation about how decision-making on climate finance should be distributed across multilateral, national and sub-national institutions.

About the speaker

Jonathan joined the Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance in 2015. He is a Postdoctoral Fellow working with Professor John Dryzek on his Australian Research Council Laureate Fellowship project, ‘Deliberative Worlds: Democracy, Justice and a Changing Earth System’.

He completed his PhD in philosophy at the Australian National University, based in the Centre for Moral, Social and Political Theory and graduating in 2014. His thesis explored opportunities for reaching a fair agreement between developing and developed countries in global climate change negotiations. Before joining the University of Canberra he taught climate and environmental policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy at ANU, and has been a Visiting Fellow at the Development Policy Centre at ANU since 2014.

Jonathan’s research interests include the ethical and political dimensions of global climate change policy, global environmental governance, development policy and ethics, and global justice.

He has a Masters' degree in development studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), and undergraduate degrees in arts and law from the University of Sydney. Previously he worked as a policy and program manager with the Australian Government's international development assistance program (AusAID, 2003-09).

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