BioStarThe BioSTAR project is a collaboration between the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) in which we explore the institutional landscape of governing for biodiversity. IVM works on creating a database of international cooperative initiatives for biodiversity, analyzing their impact for biodiversity governance, summarizing lessons learnt from the climate regime to transfer to biodiversity and identifying pathways for the CBD to harness the potentials of international cooperative initiatives.

Contact information: Prof. Philipp Pattberg, Dr Oscar Widerberg, Dr Kate Negacz.

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ADAM supported the EU in the development of post-2012 global climate policies, the definition of European mitigation policies to reach its 2020 goals, and the emergence of new adaptation policies for Europe with special attention to the role of extreme weather events.   The main objectives were:

To assess the extent to which existing climate policies can achieve a socially and economically tolerable transition to a world with a global climate no warmer than 2 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

To develop a portfolio of longer term policy options that could contribute to the EU 2 degree Centigrade target, and targets for adaptation.

To develop the requirements for climate change appraisal in different contexts to enhance the emergence of innovative mitigation and adaptation strategies.

IVM's role was to co-ordinate Work package 2 (Policy and Governance) and to take part in the other work packages, especially on climate change appraisal.

Contact informationProf. Dave Huitema

Project website

Global efforts to mitigate climate change have increased in number and scope over the past decade. The Climate Initiatives Platform – maintained by the United Nations Environment Program – contains over 220 transnational governance arrangements with relevance to climate change, in addition to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The proliferation of new institutions has created a patchwork of actors, rules and decision-making processes across private and public sectors that affect climate governance. 

Many governance arrangements are active in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency, thereby creating a link between the policy domains of climate and energy. The aim of the CLIMENGO project is to map the institutional complexity of global climate and energy governance and to evaluate its effectiveness and legitimacy. Moreover, the project aims at developing new and important research to serve as a basis for decision-makers in areas where there are large gaps in knowledge. 

The CLIMENGO project is funded by the Swedish Energy Agency and is being conducted in collaboration with Stockholm University, Lund University and SEI-Oxford.


Sanderink, L., Widerberg, O., Kristensen, K. & Pattberg, P. (2017). Mapping the Institutional Architecture of the Climate-Energy Nexus. IVM Report (R-17/04). Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Project webpage:

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Scientists today see mounting evidence that the entire earth system now operates well outside safe boundaries. According to a recent scientific assessment of the international Earth System Governance Project, human societies must change course and steer away from critical tipping points that might lead to rapid and irreversible change, while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for all. This requires a fundamental transformation in current patterns of consumption and production.

The key question from a social science perspective is how to organize the co-evolution of societies and their surrounding environment, in other words, how to develop effective and equitable governance solutions for today’s global problems. A major concern in this respect is the increasing fragmentation of global governance architectures across a number of policy domains. While global governance architectures can be highly integrated (as in the case of the free trade architecture governed by one overarching institution), the environmental domain is fragmented among competing sets of policies, actor constellations, fundamental norms and underlying discourses. The consequences of this development for effective, equitable and legitimate global governance are not well understood.

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LiveDiverse will develop new knowledge on the interactions between human livelihood and biodiversity in riparian and aquatic contexts in four developing countries (Vietnam, India, South Africa, Costa Rica). It has a strong emphasis on dissemination and the constructive engagement of a broad selection of social groups and their governmental and non-governmental representatives. The analysis of biodiversity values, sustainable use and livelihoods (biodiversity governance) within the project adopts vulnerability as a unifying concept, taking the point of departure in the concepts of biodiversity and livelihood vulnerability. Vulnerability will be considered from a combination of bio-physical, socio-economic and cultural perspectives, where human ability to conserve and husband biodiversity while at the same time achieving sustainable livelihoods is of vital importance. The analyses of areas will analyse vulnerability in terms of biophysical, socio-economic-legal and cultural/spiritual issues. Maps of these three perspectives will then be constructed in each case study and incorporated into a Geographic Information System (GIS) system. these maps will be to identify biodiversity and livelihood ‘hot-spots’, that is, places where there is a high risk (according to natural science criteria), and a low capability (according to the socio-economic, law and policy criteria). Finally, biodiversity and livelihood scenarios will be developed. These scenarios will take into account the main perspectives; biological diversity risk, socio economic ability and cultural perceptions to cope with effects of this risk. Working in a fifteen year perspective, these scenarios will examine future possible trends, threats and developments in order to formulate strategies and policy to meet the needs of both biodiversity and livelihoods.

Contact information: Dr Dave Huitema
Further information on the Livediverse website.

Governance  and  institutions  are  increasingly  becoming  a  central  concern  within  the  more quantitatively oriented modelling and scenarios  community. In  order  to understand  the  effectiveness of  institutions  in steering  society and the  international system at  large  towards sustainability, a number of approaches have been developed  within  International  Relations  and  global  environmental  governance  research,  that potentially can be  integrated  into  the on-going  attempts  to  model  political  developments  and  interventions. The  quest  for  integration  of  social  science  research  into  more formalized  methodologies  such  as  modelling,  computer simulation and scenario development  represents  one  of  the  cutting-edge  research  frontiers in sustainability politics.  The  research  project  involves  a  two-step  methodology,  which  is  based  on  the  idea  of institutional  diagnostics. In  the  first  step,  the key  features  of  the  issue  and  the  issue-area will be identified as clearly and sharply as possible. The  second  step deals  with  defining the  nature  of  the  institutional  arrangements needed  to mitigate the problem  in question or to  find ways  to  adapt  to  its  impacts. The  key challenge  is  to  formalize  the  aforementioned  qualitative  factors,  through  quantitative  techniques, such as computer based modelling.

Contact information: Prof. P.H. Pattberg 

W-11-005 PBL_Background_10June2011_FINAL.pdf

W-11-003 PBL_Biodiversity_10June2011_FINAL.pdf

Multi-stakeholder partnerships have become a much applied new mechanism in global environmental governance. At the 2002 Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development the idea of multi-sectoral partnerships was taken to the intergovernmental stage — with the so-called Partnerships for Sustainable Development presented as an official outcome of the summit. These partnerships usually bring together governments, non-governmental organisations and the private sector; in contrast to the traditional outcomes of international summits such as intergovernmental treaties or declarations. Thus far, more than 300 partnerships have been formally registered with the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.

This offers the opportunity for new, extensive, and comparable empirical research as well as renewed theoretical insight. The PARTNERS project hosted by the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is interested in three interrelated questions: first, under what conditions did partnership arrangements emerge in global environmental politics? Second, how do they influence global environmental politics? And finally, how do partnerships perform in terms of democratic legitimacy and accountability or transform these concepts? To answer these questions, the research project developed a methodological approach that brings together quantitative and qualitative elements. The quantitative part consists of the Global Sustainability Partnerships Database (GSPD) which profiles the partnerships regime in the sphere of United Nations, as well as structured surveys that reflect the assessment of different sectors on the influence of partnerships. The qualitative part includes in-depth qualitative case studies, semi-structured interviews, as well as text and discourse analyses.

The project is now focusing further on two specific areas of investigation. Discourses around the Partnerships for Sustainable Development, specifically the discourses of privatisation of governance, sustainable development, and participatory democracy, are analysed from a historical, post-structuralist perspective. Also in-depth studies are conducted on partnerships in the Asian, in particular Chinese, context; in collaboration with the EU Science and Technology Fellowship Programme in China (STF-China) and the Renmin University in Beijing.

Contact information: Prof. Philipp Pattberg

This project aims to explore the relationship between ‘worldviews’ (or: ‘philosophies of life’) and the ways these relate to goals and issues of sustainable development, including social-cultural change, individual environmental behaviour and policy attempts to influence these. Through a mixture of quantitative and qualitative research methods – including surveys, in-depth-interviews and participative observation – the philosophical underpinnings of individual views, values, behaviours and lifestyles are explored. Special attention is paid to the dynamics of worldviews, that is, the changes in worldview taking place, and their potential for strategies, practices and policies aimed at sustainable development.

Contact information: Dr Joop de Boer