Contesting legitimacy in global environmental governance - An exploration of transboundary climate risk management in the Brazilian-German coffee supply-chain
Stronger interconnections between people, ecosystems and economies in a globalized world are changing the scope and nature of global environmental governance. One area where this is becoming increasingly evident is climate change, where there is a growing recognition that climate risks can be transboundary in nature, crossing international borders as people, goods, and capital do. This suggests that a multiplicity of actors – state and non-state – have plausible claims to be engaged in or responsible for the governance of transboundary climate risks. However, it is presently unclear on what premises a global governance institution to do so might be constructed and the roles various actors may play therein. This absence of established roles and norms creates a space for political contestation with legitimacy at its center. In this paper, we unpack the contested nature of legitimacy by examining the governance of TCRs in agricultural supply-chains. Empirically, we analyze 41 semi-structured interviews across the Brazilian-German coffee supply-chain in an effort to characterize the primary modes of governance available to manage TCRs and their perceived institutional sources of legitimacy. We identify five distinct governance pathways, each underpinned by a distinct operationalization of legitimacy. These governance pathways are not necessarily mutually exclusive; it is plausible for several to co-exist, though the relative balance between their importance in a given context may vary widely. We argue that these five pathways and the role of legitimacy in navigating their differences are transferrable to other challenges in global environmental governance. Further, we argue that legitimacy is best understood as an object of political contestation, wherein actors deploy various sources of legitimacy differently in an effort to legitimize their preferred approach to TCR management, delegitimize others, and advance their own vision of appropriate global environmental governance.
Adis Dzebo, Kevin M. Adams, Contesting legitimacy in global environmental governance – An exploration of transboundary climate risk management in the Brazilian-German coffee supply-chain, Earth System Governance, Volume 15, 2023, 100166, ISSN 2589-8116,