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Political Research Exchange - PRX

The Politics of Non-State Climate Action: From Lobbying to Private Governance?

European Politics
Interest Groups
Climate Change
Heike Böhler
Technische Universität Darmstadt
Heike Böhler
Technische Universität Darmstadt

The politics of the environment are characterized by an increasingly polycentric pattern of governance where non-state actors including private companies, interest groups and civil society organizations play an important role alongside state action in addressing challenges such as climate change. Existing studies conceptualize non-state climate governance with a functionalist logic focusing on direct emissions reductions. But this perspective neglects that private climate governance may also be conducted for strategic, political reasons. However, we know surprisingly little about the political influence of non-state climate governance on public policy-making.
To address this gap, this paper joins the theoretical lenses of private governance and interest group lobbying to offer three contributions: First, it conceptualizes private governance and lobbying activities as substitutable or complementary strategies for non-state actors and identifies similarities and differences. Second, I develop a novel typology in order to describe the interactions between lobbying and private governance. Both can be strategically combined by non-state actors either as an enhancement for stricter climate legislation or as prevention against potentially costly public regulation. Third, as an empirical contribution, a novel dataset maps lobbying and private climate governance in the EU by drawing on the EU lobbying register and the UNFCCC’s database for global climate action (NAZCA). The analysis shows that non-state actors in the EU strategically combine lobbying and participation in (transnational) private governance in order to influence EU climate policy. Thus, private governance is far more than just a functional tool for emission reductions. Rather, competing interests, strategies and power dynamics need to be assessed to allow for an encompassing understanding of the politics of non-state climate governance.
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