Climate change poses unique challenges to policymakers, what GEM researchers have previously described as the “superwicked” nature of the climate crisis. GEM’s Program on Climate Governance and Policy seeks to develop innovative new approaches to climate governance and policy that can respond to these challenges.
GEM’s climate research program links social science with policy analysis to identify opportunities and levers for change in climate policy, which could exploit small legislative and regulatory changes that have realistic chances of adoption within the current political environment, and yet which contain within them “triggers” that result in increasingly durable and effective policy impacts over time. This work is based on ‘applied forward reasoning,’ an approach that builds out forward-looking policy scenarios and sensitizes decision-makers to the contingent and dynamic consequences of their policy interventions. It opens the door for policies where small steps taken today -- that may appear to be insignificant at first and/or only apply to a small segment of the population -- can trigger path dependent processes that broaden the policy’s coalition of support and increase its ambition over time to deliver significant mitigation impacts.
Importantly, the Program on Climate Policy and Governance links research to practice by actively collaborating with the climate policy practitioner community. Over the past several years, GEM has convened a series of high-profile conferences with a diverse set of government, NGO, and academics to discuss innovative future strategies for the development of US climate policy.
Building from its theoretical base in policy studies and political science, current Program research centers on detailed institutional analysis to assess the origins of a policy, the shifting coalitions of support that promoted and opposed the policy, and the way in which the architecture of the policy itself shaped its future successes and failures. The Program’s current research agenda incorporates two major projects. The first explores the conditions under which business actors will rationally support ambitious climate policymaking. The second explores the institutional drivers of variation in the timing and content of carbon pricing policies across advanced economies. Recent research has involved extensive research fieldwork in Canada, Norway, Australia, Germany and the United States.