Steven Bernstein

Steven Bernstein
University of Toronto | U of T · Department of Political Science

PhD

About

97
Publications
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Introduction
Steven Bernstein is a Professor in the Dept. of Political Science and Co-Director of the Environmental Governance Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, both at University of Toronto. He is also co-editor of the journal Global Environmental Politics. His research interests include global governance and institutions, global environmental politics and international political economy. Current projects include work on legitimacy and global governance, policy and institutional coherence in global sustainable development governance, and policy pathways towards decarbonization.
Additional affiliations
July 1999 - present
University of Toronto
Position
  • Professor (Full)

Publications

Publications (97)
Article
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Most policy-relevant work on climate change in the social sciences either analyzes costs and benefits of particular policy options against important but often narrow sets of objectives or attempts to explain past successes or failures. We argue that an “applied forward reasoning” approach is better suited for social scientists seeking to address cl...
Article
Do requirements for legitimate global governance vary across intergovernmental and non-state governance institutions? The author introduces a framework to address this question that draws attention to the social forces and power dynamics at play in determining what standards of legitimacy apply. Rather than beginning with a focus on democratic legi...
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In the absence of effective national and intergovernmental regulation to ameliorate global envir-onmental and social problems, ''private'' alternatives have proliferated including self-regulation, corporate social responsibility, and public–private partnerships. Among them, ''non-state market driven'' (NSMD) governance systems deserve elevated atte...
Chapter
Written by an international team of over sixty experts and drawing on over three thousand scientific studies, this is the first comprehensive global assessment of the political impact of the Sustainable Development Goals, which were launched by the United Nations in 2015. It explores in detail the political steering effects of the Sustainable Devel...
Chapter
This book brings together the key scholars in the international practice debate to demonstrate its strengths as an innovative research perspective. The contributions show the benefit of practice theories in the study of phenomena in international security, international political economy and international organisation, by directing attention to con...
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Fossil fuel subsidies are a market distortion commonly identified as an obstacle to decar-bonization. Yet due to trenchant political economic risks, reform attempts can be fraught for governments. Despite these concerns, an institutionally and economically diverse group of states included references to fossil fuel subsidy reform (FFSR) in their Int...
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In 2015, the United Nations agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals as the central normative framework for sustainable development worldwide. The effectiveness of governing by such broad global goals, however, remains uncertain, and we lack comprehensive meta-studies that assess the political impact of the goals across countries and globally. We...
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In the media, Norway, California, and Québec are widely acknowledged as innovative leaders in transportation electrification. Yet, what does leadership mean and how did these jurisdictions achieve it? We contend that leadership reflects both intentional forethought through early, experimental and innovative policy to promote electric vehicles and t...
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Contrary to calls for increased relevance, the discipline of political science has had lasting impacts in shaping environmental policy analysis. The ideas and approach advocated by former APSA president Elinor Ostrom, most comprehensively articulated in Governing the Commons , have diffused to shape or reinforce generations of sustainability schola...
Article
Climate clubs are valuable platforms for international and public-private collaboration in global climate governance; however, not all climate clubs enjoy durable support from their members. The existing literature attributes the varied fates of climate clubs to factors like legitimacy and club goods. We further argue that the norm-making function...
Article
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COVID-19 has caused 100s of millions of infections and millions of deaths worldwide, overwhelming health and economic capacities in many countries and at multiple scales. The immediacy and magnitude of this crisis has resulted in government officials, practitioners and applied scholars turning to reflexive learning exercises to generate insights fo...
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After a decade-long search, countries finally agreed on a new climate treaty in 2015. The Paris Agreement has attracted attention both for overcoming years of gridlock and for its novel features. Here, we build on accounts explaining why states reached agreement, arguing that a deeper understanding requires a focus on institutional design. Ultimate...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Contrary to calls for increased relevance, the discipline of political science has had lasting impacts in shaping environmental policy analysis. The ideas and approach advocated by former APSA president Eleanor Ostrom, most comprehensively articulated in Governing the Commons, have diffused to shape, or reinforce, generations of sustainability scho...
Article
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This study demonstrates how interpretive feedback functions as an intervening mechanism during policy implementation that helps explain variation in subnational climate policy entrenchment. We examine three interrelated climate policy processes in Ontario, Canada from 2001–2018: a coal phase-out (2001–2014), the feed-in-tarriff (FIT) program for re...
Conference Paper
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ABSTRACT: Thirteen years ago we coined the term “super wicked” to define a class of particularly pernicious policy problems that seemed to defy effective solutions. While inspired by Rittel and Weber’s class of “wicked problems,” we derived four additional features of the climate change crisis: time is running out; no central authority; those causi...
Chapter
Architectures of Earth System Governance - edited by Frank Biermann May 2020
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Disagreements on how to manage the COVID-19 outbreak can be traced back to four distinct ways of thinking about critical problems that have informed policy making for decades. Benjamin Cashore and Steven Bernstein argue that policy makers need to be more self-conscious and transparent about which problem conceptions guide their choices when million...
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The international community has treated climate change as an emissions reduction challenge, drawing on the analytical metaphor of the global commons, and thus the politics of collective action and international cooperation. So far, these strategies have failed to produce an effective global response. We propose decarbonization as the defining chall...
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Great powers routinely face demands to take on special responsibilities to address major concerns in global affairs, and often gain special rights for doing so. These areas include peace and security, global economic management, development, and egregious violations of human rights. Despite the rise in the importance and centrality of global enviro...
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Of Limits and Growth: The Rise of Global Sustainable Development in the Twentieth Century. By Stephen J. Macekura. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. 333p. $38.43 cloth, $26.88 paper. - Volume 17 Issue 2 - Steven Bernstein
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A growing scholarship on multistakeholder learning dialogues suggests the importance of closely managing learning processes to help stakeholders anticipate which policies are likely to be effective. Much less work has focused on how to manage effective transnational multistakeholder learning dialogues, many of which aim to help address critical glo...
Chapter
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The Politics of Fossil Fuel Subsidies and their Reform - edited by Jakob Skovgaard August 2018
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The Paris Agreement of 2015 marks a formal shift in global climate change governance from an international legal regime that distributes state commitments to solve a collective action problem to a catalytic mechanism to promote and facilitate transformative pathways to decarbonization. It does so through a system of nationally determined contributi...
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Climate change governance is in a state of enormous flux. New and more dynamic forms of governing are appearing around the international climate regime centred on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). They appear to be emerging spontaneously from the bottom up, producing a more dispersed pattern of governing, which Nob...
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Concepts of “boundary organization” and “boundary work,” borrowed from science and technology studies (STS), are now commonly used in International Relations to analyze organizations providing a science–policy interface. This article critically examines these concepts, with close attention to specific insights from the STS literature, for their add...
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This chapter lays out a research agenda to assess conditions, challenges, and prospects for the Sustainable Development Goals to pursue this aim. First, the chapter discusses goal setting as a global governance strategy. Second, to contextualize the Sustainable Development Goals, it discusses the unique nature of the modern challenges that the Sust...
Chapter
The United Nations – with the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development playing a leadership role – is a central and necessary governance node to make progress on the Sustainable Development Goals. However, their scope and nature as goals and the normative character of sustainable development that demands integrative and coherent govern...
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The chapter focuses on the inclusion of “governance goals” in global goal-setting mechanisms, especially the Sustainable Development Goals, and is centred on a question; can better governance, in itself, be a subject for global goal setting? We focus in this chapter on three core qualities of governance, which are good governance, effective governa...
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This perspective documents current thinking around climate actions in Canada by synthesizing scholarly proposals made by Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD), an informal network of scholars from all 10 provinces, and by reviewing responses from civil society representatives to the scholars’ proposals. Motivated by Canada’s recent history of repeated...
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Best practices are increasingly used to govern a range of global issues. Yet, the rise of global governance through best practices has received scant attention in the International Relations literature. How do best practices differ from other modes of governance? How are they constructed? And to what end? We offer a novel conceptualisation of best...
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This chapter explores the role of professions in the politics of diffusing emissions trading (ET) as a policy instrument to deal with climate change. It builds on an existing analysis of the transnational expert network through which ideas about ET have diffused (Paterson et al., 2014), by introducing the question of professional ties and identitie...
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Nonstate and subnational climate governance activities are proliferating. Alongside them are databases and registries that attempt to calculate their contributions to global decar-bonization. We label these registries “orchestration platforms” because they both aggregate disparate initiatives and attempt to steer them toward overarching objectives...
Chapter
A deep irony is embedded in the history of the scientific study of political science, but especially of international relations. Recent generations of scholars separated policy from theory to gain an intellectual distance from decision making to enhance the “scientific” quality of their work. But five decades of well-funded efforts to develop theor...
Article
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The High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development (HLPF) is a central element in the emerging governance architecture for sustainable development. Established at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20), the HLPF has a dauntingly expansive mandate, including setting the sustainable development agenda; enhancing integrati...
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Greenhouse gas emissions trading (ET) systems have become the centerpiece of climate change policy at multiple scales, unexpectedly largely outside of the UN climate governance process. The diffusion of ET is best described as a case of polycentric diffusion, where ET systems diffused to multiple loci of governance, but where they all serve similar...
Technical Report
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Policy Brief #4 Key Messages: 1. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require appropriate institutional support to integrate them effectively into institutions and practices, to coordinate activities, and to mobilize resources for implementation. The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) can be a lead " orchestrator of or...
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Highlights: 1. Governance must be a crucial part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, there are also different ways of integrating key aspects of governance into the SDGs. Much of the discussions for the SDGs has revolved around either having a stand-alone governance goal or integrating governance into other goals on specific issue...
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The conditions that led to low expectations for the Rio+20 conference tell us more about the prospects for addressing collective global problems than a focus only on its substantive outcomes. Three conjectures on why expectations were so low are put forward: a lack of vision and modest ambition at the conference’s core; unresolved and unconfronted...
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This review analyzes the methods being used and developed in global environmental governance (GEG), an applied field that employs insights and tools from a variety of disciplines both to understand pressing environmental problems and to determine how to address them collectively. We find that methods are often underspecified in GEG research. We und...
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Despite early neglect in international environmental policy scholarship, political scientists and international lawyers have persuasively showed the importance of studying norms to understand the underpinnings of, and conflicts over, the most appropriate values and policies to collectively respond to global environmental problems, including climate...
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Two attempts at grand compromise have underpinned global order since the end of the Second World War. The first, a compromise between laissez-faire liberalism and domestic interventionism, famously described by John Ruggie as ‘embedded liberalism’, legitimated and stabilized a multilateral order for 50 years. A second attempt, this time between Nor...
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Standard works on international environmental governance assume single-issue regimes with binding obligations designed to govern the behaviour of states. Yet many of the most pressing global environmental problems, including climate change, forest degradation and biodiversity loss, are governed by an array of mechanisms—legal, non-legal, government...
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The United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro in June is an important opportunity to improve the institutional framework for sustainable development.
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The current institutional framework for sustainable development is by far not strong enough to bring about the swift transformative progress that is needed. This article contends that incrementalism—the main approach since the 1972 Stockholm Conference—will not suffice to bring about societal change at the level and speed needed to mitigate and ada...
Article
Science assessments indicate that human activities are moving several of Earth's sub-systems outside the range of natural variability typical for the previous 500,000 years (1, 2). Human societies must now change course and steer away from critical tipping points in the Earth system that might lead to rapid and irreversible change (3). This require...
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This article explores institutional cooperation in global economic governance to address two fundamental questions: Where do the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) overlap or compete with those of other institutions? What explains institutional coherence/incoherence between the WTO and other international organizations? It analyses the rel...
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Scholars have started to grapple with what might be termed “new”, or second-wave, global environmental governance. It is problem-focused, requiring careful attention to theory. The study of global environmental governance has increasingly identified complexity, scale, and linkages as core characteristics, yet few scholars directly tackle these chal...
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Assessments of the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 have tended to see it as a ‘return to realism’ — as the triumph of hard interstate bargaining over institutional or normative development about climate change. This article contests that interpretation by showing how it focuses too closely on the interstate negotiations...
Article
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Meaningful non-state global governance exists but is less prevalent and harder to achieve than the broader scholarship on global governance suggests. The argument proceeds in three parts. First, I put forward and defend the claim that meaningful global governance must be authoritative and rest on political legitimacy. Second, borrowing from Adler a...
Chapter
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The ultimate goal of many international and transnational attempts to address global problems is to influence domestic policymaking processes rather than simply to constrain or modify the external behaviour of states. This chapter reviews existing scholarship on the impacts that global forest governance arrangements have had on domestic policymakin...
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Introduction The failure of states and intergovernmental processes to address some of the most important environmental problems facing the planet – explanations of which can often be traced back to “tragedy of the commons” or “collective action” dilemmas (see Delmas and Young in their Introduction to this volume) – has resulted in the proliferation...
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The last half decade has witnessed a remarkable resurgence of attention among practitioners and scholars to understanding the ability of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to address environmental and social problems. Although significant advances have been made, assessing the forms, types, and impacts on intended objectives is impeded by the co...
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The proliferation of transnational social and environmental standards developed by non-state governance systems potentially poses a challenge to international trade law and the legitimacy of the World Trade Organization (WTO). These systems—in areas including forestry, apparel, tourism, labour practices, agriculture, fisheries, and food—operate lar...
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A Globally Integrated Climate Policy for Canada builds on the premise that Canada is in need of an approach that effectively integrates domestic priorities and global policy imperatives. Leading Canadian and international experts explore policy ideas and options from a range of disciplinary perspectives, including science, law, political science, e...
Chapter
The failure of governments and international institutions to effectively address significant global social and environmental problems has created a policy void that an array of voluntary, self-regulatory, shared governance and private arrangements are beginning to fill (Andrews 1998; Gunningham, Kagan and Thornton 2003; Harrison 1998; Howlett 2000;...
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The failure of the worlds’ governments to agree on a binding global forest convention at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit led many leading environmental groups to advance eco-labelling ‘forest certification’ programmes that, they hoped, would achieve greater success in implementing sustainable forest management. Eschewing traditional State-centered author...
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The papers in this section suggest that the divisions between different regions and groupings in climate negotiations may be, at least in part, cultural in character. If this characterization is correct, the challenges facing future negotiations are more serious than analyses based solely on state interests suggest. Finding a way forward under such...
Conference Paper
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This article was submitted without an abstract, please refer to the full-text PDF file.
Article
Many years ago, John Gerard Ruggie coined the phrase "embedded liberalism" to describe the grand post-1945 political compromise between free-market liberalism and domestic political interventionism that stabilized the multilateral economic order. In Global Liberalism and Political Order, leading scholars of political economy and international relat...
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THIS BOOK IS ABOUT world order. It comes amidst deep challenges to the institutional and political foundations of the multilateral order created after World War II. Fissures have appeared in the Western alliance that underpinned its power structure, the fracturing of political authority accompanying globalization has put strains on its legitimacy,...
Chapter
IN WHAT WAS TO BE the signal global event to mark the dawn of a new post-cold war era, the environment held a principal position in the most ambitious attempt to forge a global compromise since Bretton Woods. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro aimed at nothing less than building a grand compromise to shape global governance into the twenty-fir...
Book
Canada has been an engaged participant in global climate change negotiations since the late 1980s. Until recently, Canadian policy seemed to be driven in large part by a desire to join in multilateral efforts to address climate change. By contrast, current policy is seeking a "made in Canada" approach to the issue. Recent government-sponsored analy...
Chapter
Adeep irony is embedded in the history of the scientific study of political science, but especially of international relations. Recent generations of scholars separated policy from theory to gain an intellectual distance from decision making to enhance the “scientific” quality of their work. But five decades of well-funded efforts to develop theori...
Article
A growing number of regulations and agencies dealing with the global environment directly affect citizens' lives. In these conditions, a conventional division between international and domestic issues, and between normative and explanatory theory, becomes less tenable, raising corresponding issues of legitimacy, community, and ethics. This chapter...
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Until relatively recently, forest governance across the globe followed a "top down" or hierarchical approach. In this traditional model, policy goals were determined and developed within the confines of the nation state and implemented by state officials invoking a variety of "command and control" policy instruments. However, the limitations of tra...
Article
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The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
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When traditional forms of multilateral governance fail to materialise, is nonstate governance a viable alternative? This problem besets the forestry issue area, where repeated attempts to forge a binding international convention to manage the use and preservation of forests have failed (Wang 2001; Dimitrov 2003). Most relevant states now strongly o...
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Global environmental governance rests on a set of norms best characterized by the label "liberal environmentalism." The 1992 Earth Summit catalyzed the process of institutionalizing these norms, which predicate environmental pro tection on the promotion and maintenance of a liberal economic order. To support this claim, this article identifies the...
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The 1997 Kyoto Protocol establishes an international institutional framework for domestic responses to climate change that links emission targets for developed countries to international market mechanisms. Although these ‘flexible mechanisms’ allow developed countries some leeway in how they meet their commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, the pr...
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Recent scholarship on international norms neglects the question of why some norms get selected over others to define and regulate appropriate behavior. I introduce a `socio-evolutionary' explanation for the entrance and evolution of norms, which focuses on the interaction of ideas with the social structure they encounter. This explanation best acco...
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For conceptual and empirical reasons the quest for predictive theory rests on a mistaken analogy between physical and social phenomena. Evolutionary biology is a more productive analogy for social science. We explore the value of this analogy in its `hard' and `soft' versions, and examine the implications of both for theory and research in Internat...
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Confusion over how forces from beyond state borders affect domestic policy occurs because analysts often conflate different nondomestic factors, or focus on particular sources of influence to the exclusion of others. To remedy this problem, the authors make a distinction between the structural economic forces associated with rising levels of trade,...
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For many, the term ‘globalization’ evokes the spectre of an impersonal global marketplace that threatens to overwhelm domestic policy and policy-making independence.1

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