Global change and governance scholars frequently highlight polycentricity as a feature of resilient governance, but both theoretical and empirical knowledge about features and outcomes of the concept are lacking at the global scale. Here we investigate the structural properties of governance of global nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycles, two processes in the ‘planetary boundaries’ framework. We have used a mixed-methods approach to institutional analysis, integrating polycentric theory with social network theory in environmental policy and legal studies. We include an actor collaboration case study, the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM), to explore governance challenges associated with global N and P cycles. We set the scope for selection of relevant legal instruments using an overview of global N and P flows between Earth system ‘components’ (land, water, atmosphere, oceans, biosphere) and the major anthropogenic N and P perturbations. Our network analysis of citations of global N and P governance exposes the structural patterns of a loose network among the principal institutions and actors, in which legal instruments of the European Union serve as key cross-scale and cross-sectoral ‘gateways’. We show that the current international regimes in place for regulating N- and P-related issues represent a gap in governance at the global level. In addition, we are able to show that the emergence of GPNM provides synergies in this context of insufficient governance. The GPNM can be viewed as a structure of polycentric governance as it involves deliberate attempts for mutual adjustments and self-organised action.
Research news | 2018-07-10
The World in 2050 initiative launches new report outlining synergies and benefits that render the goals achievable
Educational news | 2018-07-02
LEAP our leadership programme designed for changemakers that want to lead social-ecological transformations to sustainability. Application deadline is 5 August 2018.
Research news | 2018-06-27
Overfishing, fractured international relationships and political conflicts loom as fish migrate more unpredictably because of climate change. Here is how to deal with it
Research news | 2018-06-26
Profit-maximizing approaches are most likely to produce outcomes that harm people or the environment. But it depends on the circumstances whether a sustainable or a safe approach is most suitable, new study argues
General news | 2018-06-20
Will lead a redesign of the organisational structure at the centre
Research news | 2018-06-20
New book chapter looks into the economic, cultural and ecological reasons why some people leave the fisheries and aquaculture sector, and what could be done to reverse the trend