Exploring the contours of climate governance: An interdisciplinary systematic literature review from a southern perspective

Rodolfo Sapiains, Cecilia Ibarra, Guadalupe Jiménez, Raúl O'Ryan, Gustavo Blanco, Pilar Moraga, Maisa Rojas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Dealing with climate change is one of this century's most difficult challenges demanding new strategies to steer societies towards common transformational goals. A growing literature involving “climate governance” is evolving and should advance the discussion on transformations and the involvement of different actors in climate action. However, it is unclear that the Global South's particularities are being integrated. This study has a three-fold goal: (a) identify the different approaches to climate governance found in the mainstream literature, (b) explore the degree of integration of the Global South in those approaches, and (c) contribute to the ongoing discussion on this issue from a southern perspective. A systematic literature review on “climate governance” was conducted, distinguishing different approaches and their significance for the Global South. Results clustered in six groups use the characterizations: multi-level, global, adaptive, transnational, polycentric, and experimental/transformative. These terms account for different levels of decision-making, emerging values, and the importance of non-State and sub-national actors. Approaches vary, in relation to change and participation, from an incremental improvement focus to a more transformative perspective and from the promotion of community influence to processes based on traditional institutions. In the Global South, multi-level, multi-actor climate governance occurs in a context of deep inequality and asymmetric power relations, rising environmental conflicts, and a lack of adequate mechanisms for community participation. Addressing climate change here will require, acknowledging the State alone cannot solve the issue, that different views must be considered and that contextualized perspectives from the Global South must be integrated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-59
Number of pages14
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Global South
  • climate change
  • climate governance
  • interdisciplinary
  • literature review


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