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Sources of Legitimacy in Global Environmental Governance


Most global governance efforts rest on fragile foundations as long as their legitimacy within national political systems remains contested. Legitimacy denotes the “capacity of the political system to engender and maintain the belief that existing political institutions are the most appropriate and proper ones for the society.” (Lipset 1983:64) The proposed project examines the sources of legitimacy and thus also public support for global governance. It focuses on procedural and outcome related sources of legitimacy; that is, how decisions in global governance systems are made (procedure), and how the benefits and costs of governance are allocated (outcome). Empirically, it concentrates on climate change, the most paradigmatic case of a global governance challenge. On the procedural side, the project explores the implications for legitimacy of variation in international decision-making rules, civil society participation, and involvement of international organizations. On the outcome side, it examines the implications of variation in outcome favorability (absolute gains/losses), burden/benefit sharing (outcome fairness, relative gains/losses), and reciprocity. It relies on survey embedded experiments in the laboratory and via a crowd-sourcing platform, as well as geographically representative survey experiments in five countries: Brazil, China, Germany, India, and the USA. The project will generate important new insights into how public support for global environmental governance systems could be enhanced. It also connects two important but hitherto separate fields of research on collective goods, namely local common pool resources and global environmental governance, by examining whether and how specific sources of legitimacy differ in importance when governance systems, and thus also chains of delegation and political representation, expand from the local to the global political level.

Call for proposal

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Raemistrasse 101
8092 Zuerich

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Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera Zürich Zürich
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Thomas Claudius Bernauer (Prof.)
Principal investigator
Thomas Claudius Bernauer (Prof.)
EU contribution
No data

Beneficiaries (1)