How can institutions and the “rules of the game” be strengthened to effectively address climate change and advance a green economy? This question was at the centre of debate during the 2nd UNITAR-Yale Conference on Environmental Governance & Democracy, New Haven, USA 17-19 September 2010. The Conference brought together some 160 academics, governance practitioners and civil society representatives from more than 20 developed and developing countries to explore opportunities of strengthening policy-relevant research on effective governance to address climate change and foster a green economy.  The event was organized by UNITAR and Yale University in partnership with UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UN-HABITAT, the World Bank, OECD, the Earth System Governance Project, the World Resources Institute, and the Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future. 


“Designing effective institutions and governance schemes is becoming increasingly important in advancing global environmental sustainability” said Carlos Lopes, Executive Director of UNITAR in his welcome remarks. Susan Rose Ackerman, Professor at the Yale Law School, observed that climate change creates peculiar governance challenges, given that impacts occur in locations and affect generations that are not necessarily responsible for generating the problem. Drawing upon the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi, Rajendra Pachauri, Head of the IPCC and Director of the Yale Climate and Energy Institute, emphasized in his keynote presentation that democracy needs to mobilize “the entire physical, economic and spiritual resources of all the various sections of the people in the service of the common good of all”, if the climate change challenge is to be addressed effectively. Sir Peter Crane, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies praised the partnerships between academic, international and civil society institutions in organizing the Conference and outlined the challenge of translating knowledge generated by the academic community into effective policies.

The Conference had the objective to exchange knowledge and advance a research agenda that addresses institutional and governance aspects of climate change and fostering a green economy. “The interest and enthusiasm of scholars and governance practitioners to share knowledge and engage in collaborative learning was encouraging and points to opportunities for a stronger and more systematic dialogue between policy makers and the research community”, said Achim Halpaap, Associate Director of Environment at UNITAR and co-organizer of the Conference. Building on the ideas generated during the Conference, the Institute and Yale will follow up with partners to explore how a research-based knowledge sharing mechanism that has a practical value for policy makers engaged in governance can be taken forward.

During the three day event, 15 panels and working sessions took stock of existing research, identified knowledge gaps, and developed research questions to better understand how institutional rules of the game shape the dynamics of decision-making and, through this, decision-outcomes. Discussions covered various levels of governance – including global, regional, transnational, national, sub-national, and local - as well as specialized governance topics, including governance of climate change science, adaptation, mitigation, financing and forestry. The Conference was informed by more than 120 papers which had been submitted by authors from around the world. Building upon interactive debates, the final plenary session featured a discussion on opportunities to enhance international knowledge sharing. In his concluding comments, Ben Cashore, Professor of Environmental Governance at Yale  challenged participants that "if governance research strives to generate meaningful recommendations that are relevant for policy making, it cannot be descriptive and normative alone, but needs to develop hypothesis, examine causal relationships, and identify root causes of a problem."

                Setting the Scene: Perspectives from the Opening Panel
                                        on Friday, 17 September 2010

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