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Governing global telecoupling toward environmental sustainability

Jens Newig, Research Group Governance and Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
Edward Challies, School of Earth and Environment, University of Canterbury, New Zealand; Research Group Governance and Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
Benedetta Cotta, Research Group Governance and Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany
Andrea Lenschow, Jean-Monnet-Chair of European Integration, Osnabrück University, Germany
Almut Schilling-Vacaflor, Jean-Monnet-Chair of European Integration, Osnabrück University, Germany

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-11844-250421

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Abstract

Telecoupling constitutes a particular class of globalized environmental issues that are neither local-cumulative, nor transboundary, nor concerning global commons, but that arise because of specific linkages between distal regions. Such telecoupled issues, e.g., associated with global commodity chains, waste flows, or migration patterns, have been receiving increasing attention from scholars of global land change science. Although governance research has mostly studied existing institutional responses to these issues, telecoupling opens up a problem-oriented perspective on issues of environmental sustainability that occur regionally, but that arise because of global linkages, and raises novel questions about how such issues are and could be governed in a global architecture. We draw insights from existing literature on globally interconnected phenomena to advance our understanding of governing telecoupling toward environmental sustainability. We first identify and discuss five particular challenges that telecoupling poses to global environmental governance: knowledge deficits, divergent interests, high transaction costs of cooperation, the weak legitimacy base of current governance arrangements, and policy incoherence and fragmentation. Second, we review conceptual literature that meaningfully address the governance of telecoupling, while utilizing differing terminologies, for example, through reference to “flows,” “chains,” or “multiscalar” issues. Building on this, we elaborate on how currently debated governance approaches respond to the identified challenges. We conclude with a brief note on where we believe the discussion on governance of telecoupling stands, and where we see directions for future research.

Key words

environmental flows; fragmentation; global commodity chains; global environmental governance; inter-regional connectedness; scale

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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