Andreas Goldthau

Governing Global Energy: Systems, Transitions, Complexity

Governing global energy: systems, transitions, complexity. Global Policy (2) 1, 2011, pp. 75-88 (with Aleh Cherp and Jessica Jewell)


Global energy systems face multiple interconnected challenges which need to be addressed urgently and simultaneously, thus requiring unprecedented energy transitions. This article addresses the implications of such transitions for global energy governance. It departs from the reductionist approach where governance institutions and mechanisms are analysed in isolation from each other. Instead, the authors consider governance systems as complex and historically rooted ‘arenas’ coevolving with the energy issues they address. We argue that effective global energy governance requires striking a tenuous balance between the determination and efficiency needed to drive energy transitions with the flexibility and innovation necessary to deal with complexity and uncertainty. The article reviews three distinct and relatively autonomous global energy governance arenas: energy security, energy access and climate change. It argues that governance in each of these arenas can be enhanced through strengthening its linkages with the other two arenas. While widely shared and supported global energy goals are necessary and desirable, there is no case for a ‘global energy government’ as a single institution or regime. The current complexity of global energy governance is thus an opportunity to establish a polycentric governance system with various parts fostering complementary approaches necessary for addressing the highly interlinked energy challenges.

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