Governance and Behaviour

Research in the governance theme explores the underlying causes and potential policy solutions to climate change mitigation and adaptation challenges in the broader context of the transition to sustainability.

‘Governing’ refers to activities that seek to guide, steer, control or otherwise manage human societies. ‘Governance’ describes the patterns that emerge from these governing activities. As well as administrative organisations such as government ministries, formal policies and programmes, and specific instruments such as emissions trading, it also includes the more informal activities of non-state actors operating alongside, and sometimes wholly independent of, governments.

Climate change is a highly dynamic and politically high profile area of governance. Although the basic science of climate change has steadily become clearer and less contested amongst scientists, the debates about how to govern mitigation and adaptation have become more intense. The Copenhagen summit powerfully revealed that the main barriers to collective action are political and governance-related, not scientific or technological.

The Tyndall Centre has an internationally recognised capacity to conduct work which explicates the policy, political and governance aspects of climate change at multiple levels, from global to local, and across sectors. Its work covers the design and performance of particular policy instruments (e.g. research on REDD and the Clean Development Mechanism), the (non) use of scientific evidence and assessment tools to inform policy development activities (e.g. LIAISE), the emergence and role of partnerships between the private and public sectors (e.g. the NMNE project), and the design of policy systems to cope with complex policy coordination challenges (e.g. SCOOPI). Work in this theme is being funded by a number of bodies including the European Commission, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Leverhulme Trust.

Theme Co-ordinatorsHeike Schroder, Sarah Mander, Stuart Capstick, Lorraine Whitmarsh

See below for a list of the Theme's current projects:

Acquiring a Car as a Habit Discontinuity

This project investigates the role of car change as a ‘window of opportunity’ to support change of driving habits, in favour of more economical driving style (‘eco-driving’). A quasi-randomised controlled trial will assess three types of intervention (information provision, a smart phone app, or social commitment) to foster eco-driving.
Dimitrios Xenias, Lorraine Whitmarsh
December 2012 to December 2013
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Analysing Carbon Trading as an Instituted Process of Exchange

Climate change mitigation necessitates substantial alterations to patterns of worldwide economic activity and there are profound political, economic and ethical questions surrounding the governance of the means, rate and location of change. Within advanced capitalist economies and internationally through the UNFCCC there have been efforts to introduce emissions trading systems since the early 1990s.

This project has investigated the development, constitution and consequences of institutions for the production, exchange and consumption of credits for emissions reductions. Such credits are financial instruments awarded to organisations for putative reductions in emissions from “business as usual''.

In consumption they perpetuate continued high emissions activities by neutralising environmental regulation. I argue that crediting is a socially contingent process of commodification not a simple rearrangement of physical pollution. In a reversal of the carbon traders aphorism, I describe the ways in which a tonne is not a tonne, is not a tonne.

Duration: 2006-2010

Funder: UKERC

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Climate Change Communication and Scepticism

This research was initially funded by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and is now supported by the School of Psychology. It has involved public survey work and laboratory experiments to understand how the public perceive and process information about climate change. There has been a particular focus on the forms of uncertainty and scepticism expressed by the public, and the reasons for and impacts of this uncertainty and scepticism.

Duration: April 2009 - ongoing

Connecting science and policy: the impact of the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee

Calls abound for more evidence-based policy-making. However, the evidence-policy relationship is not simple, as recent UK experiences with, for example, climate change demonstrate. Studying institutions which straddle the boundary between evidence 'providers' - like scientists - and policy-makers can improve understanding of the evidence-policy relationship. The UK’s Parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) is such an institution; it acts as an intermediary between evidence produced by various actors, and the political process of implementing sustainable development. The operation of Parliamentary committees is little studied. This documentary analysis and elite interview driven project aims to better understand: the role of contributors to EAC investigations; why some actors' contributions are favoured over others; and the EAC’s role in setting agenda

Duration: 2009- 2010

Funding: The UK Nuffield Foundation

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Deep emissions reductions and the mainstreaming of mitigation and adaptation – ‘RESPONSES’

EU climate policy is now focused on accelerating mitigation efforts, while simultaneously reducing risks associated with climate change impacts. To achieve these goals, climate action needs to be ‘mainstreamed’ across all EU policy sectors. The RESPONSES - European Responses to Climate Change: Deep Emissions Reductions and Mainstreaming of Mitigation and Adaptation - project addresses these challenges by developing new global low emissions scenarios, placing EU efforts in a global context; building an approach for assessing EU policies against mitigation and adaptation objectives and for developing alternative policy options; applying this framework in five key policy sectors (water and agriculture, biodiversity, regional development/ infrastructure, health and energy); and synthesizing the results to propose improved options for EU strategies and measures. The RESPONSES consortium brings together seven leading European research institutes working on climate change scenarios, modelling, analysis and policy.

Dr Tim Rayner, Professor Andrew Jordan and Dr Irene Lorenzoni have a leading role in synthesising the emerging findings and developing improved guidance on the appraisal of climate policy.

Funding: European Commission FP7

Duration: January 2010 - December 2012

Energy Biographies: Understanding the Dynamics of Energy Use for Energy Demand Reduction

This research is funded through the ESRC and EPSRC through the ‘Energy and Communities collaborative venture’ as part of Research Council UK's (RCUK) Energy Programme.  This project will break new research ground by using innovative qualitative methods (longitudinal research, sensory methods) to look closely at how our energy consuming practices can be illuminated through use of the conceptual themes of biography and lifecourse.

Duration: October 2010 - July 2013

Impacts of the December 2013 storm surge on the North Norfolk Coast

From the 5th to the 7th of December 2013 the east coast of England was affected by “the biggest UK storm surge for 60 years”. The storm surge along parts of the coast reached higher levels than the devastating floods of 1953. Loss of life due to flooding was avoided; but there was still extensive change to the coastline, damage to seawalls, and flooding of areas designated as “hold the line”. This event offers a unique opportunity to investigate the environmental impacts and social and policy responses to a severe episodic event.
A team of natural and social scientists within the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA has received funding from NERC to determine the environmental impacts of this storm surge event and understand the social responses.  The study area is the North Norfolk Coast (NNC), between Brancaster and Salthouse, constituted by a mosaic of urban, natural, semi-natural habitats and farmland, used extensively for recreation. The social sciences component will engage with the public and stakeholders to explore and understand the social and policy responses to the flooding and disruption caused to natural habitats and areas of conservation and recreation. It will focus on understanding how, from the perspective of its inhabitants and visitors, the changes to the landscapes resulting from the storm surge are being considered and received and how these have been managed in the immediate and short-term aftermath of the event by national agencies and local decision-makers. It will also explore how the event may create opportunities (or barriers) for changing thinking and policy around responses to storm events and longer term adaptation and transformation.
Marisa Goulden, Irene Lorenzoni, Trevor Tolhurst.
March – November 2014

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Integrated Assessment of Geoengineering Proposals, IAGP

Funded through a joint initiative with EPSRC and NERC this project aims to provide evidence and tools which will enable society to explore and evaluate the feasibility of geoengineering proposals.  The Cardiff University teams’ role is to elicit and examine public perceptions of geoengineering.

Duration: November 2010 - November 2014

Low-Carbon Lifestyles and Behavioural Spillover (CASPI)

This ERC Starting Grant is about how environmentally-friendly behaviour, lifestyles and spillover are understood and develop within different cultures. In particular, it tests whether and when behavioural ‘spillover’ happens – in other words, whether taking up one new green behaviour (e.g., recycling) leads on to other green behaviours (e.g., taking your own bags shopping), and if so, under what circumstances.
Lorraine Whitmarsh
February 2014 to January 2019
European Research Council
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Non-State Actors in the New Landscape of International Climate Cooperation

This research programme consists of two interlinked projects, which focus on the role of non-state actors in multilateral climate diplomacy as well as non-state climate governance in the transnational arena.  

The programme departs from two seemingly paradoxical developments in recent years. At a time when UN climate multilateralism appears to be making little progress, non-state initiatives on climate change are thriving. This transnational climate governance experimentation has gained increased scholarly attention in recent years and suggested that it is time to consider climate activities ‘beyond the international regime’. At the same time, the non-state interest in the interstate arena is larger than ever.

Recent UN meeting have attracted growing numbers of non-state participants and governments have formally recognised the importance of such participation. Nonetheless, civic and private observers note that their access to the UN climate negotiations has become increasingly restricted. The research programme seeks to better understand these tensions by examining the interface between the intergovernmental negotiating process and transnational networks of business, civic, indigenous and local government actors.

The programme is organized around three research tasks. First, it studies the governance functions of non-state actors in multilateral climate diplomacy both within the context of the current UNFCCC review of non-state actors’ roles in the international climate change conferences and through the self-images of non-state actors and perceptions of negotiators and other actors. Second, it examines non-state actors' transnational governance experiments beyond the international regime and how these activities interact with the UN climate conferences. This is done through several case studies, such as the Clean Development Mechanism, REDD+ as well as arenas that are linked to international climate policy such as the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20). Finally, we assess what implications our conclusions from the two first questions have on intergovernmental diplomacy, transnational governance, and global democracy.

In order to systematically examine the different actors’ roles the project employs several methods: surveys among participants at the international climate change conferences and their side-events, semi-structured interviews with key people within the UNFCCC Secretariat and representatives from states that have made submissions on the on-going review of the role of non-state actors, document analysis and observations of the negotiations. These results will then be interpreted in light of three current theories on transnational governance and non-state actors’ role in decision-making.

The combined results of the research questions will advance our understandings of transnational governance and non-state actors’ significance for governance, transparency, legitimacy, effectiveness and the symbolic value of international cooperation. The project will moreover contribute to our understanding of the role that intergovernmental diplomacy has for these organizations.

By combining empirical and methodological experience with theoretical expertise on global climate governance and democratic theory the project will seek to make new empirical and theoretical contributions with relevance for the international cooperation in the field of environment and development. The study will also develop an internationally unique database of questionnaires that are conducted yearly at the international climate change negotiations.

Duration: January 2012 - December 2014

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Novel Multi-sector Networks and Entrepreneurship (NMNE) Project

Led by Dr. Heike Schroeder and Dr. Sarah Burch at the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute, the Novel Multi-sector Networks and Entrepreneurship (NMNE) project theorizes small businesses as agents of change in the multi-level governance of climate change, and cities as niche spaces in which sustainable development paths might be explored.

Using the cases of Metro Vancouver, Canada, and London, UK, this work examines the drivers of emerging partnerships between various levels of government and small businesses in the interests of climate change mitigation.  Rooted in an understanding of multi-level governance, and the role of non-state actors (such as municipal governments and the private sector) in climate change action, the aim of this work is to facilitate a greater understanding of socio-technical transitions toward resilient, low-carbon development pathways in cities.  We ask the following questions: what are the political and legislative triggers of these emerging private/public sector partnerships? How can these arrangements help to manage or alter institutional path dependence in cities?  What is the long term potential for ongoing partnerships, entrepreneurship in support of greenhouse gas management, and ultimately the mitigation of climate change?  How feasible might it be for this model to extend beyond mitigation to climate change adaptation and sustainability more broadly?

Duration: July 2010 - June 2012

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Operationalising REDD+: actors, interests and ideas

This project includes both analysis of the international REDD+ negotiations and field work on local REDD+ projects. It addresses the changing positions and strategies of international environmental NGOs on REDD+; making sense of who influenced the broadening of REDD to include forest management and conservation activities under REDD+; the design of social safeguards; and multilevel governance of REDD+ in practice.


Duration: April 2010 - July 2012



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Patterns of policy dismantling and de-regulation in an era of economic austerity - ‘CONSENSUS’

One of the main challenges for sustainable development is how to integrate economic, environmental and social objectives. By exploring historical patterns of deregulation, CONSENSUS (Confronting Social and Environmental Sustainability with Economic Pressure: Balancing Trade-offs by Policy Dismantling?), is aiming to investigate how and to what extent conflicts between these objectives are addressed in processes of policy dismantling. In particular, how do countries respond to these challenges under different levels of economic pressure? CONSENSUS is carrying out a systematic longitudinal comparison across 25 OECD countries, over the period 1975-2005, on how priority areas for sustainable development – climate change, public health, natural resource management, biodiversity and poverty and social exclusion (such as social transfer and social assistance programmes) – have been shaped by factors (e.g. global competition, international harmonization of standards, veto players, political parties and macro-economic austerity pressure) which can trigger policy dismantlin

Duration: March 2008 - February 2011

Funding: European Commission FP7

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Public and Expert Attitudes to Low-carbon Transport Options

This research is funded by the ESRC Centre for Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability & Society (BRASS), and the FP7 project REACT.  It uses a mixed-methods approach to examine acceptability of different low-carbon transport technologies and policies (e.g., electric vehicles, congestion charging) and willingness to change travel behaviours amongst different groups.

Duration: August 2009 - October 2012

Public perceptions of climate change in the immediate aftermath of major national flooding

The research considers the role of extreme weather as a critical influence on people's understanding of climate change. Although a number of studies have looked at how wider meteorological conditions (e.g. day-to-day temperature) can affect people's views on climate change, there is little research that examines the role of extraordinary or extreme weather events in affecting public opinion.
Our research is designed to examine people's perceptions of climate change shortly after the occurrence of major national flooding in parts of the UK in early 2014. We will be carrying out a large survey across Great Britain in the summer of 2014 through which we can measure people's views about the flooding and about climate change, and how these are connected.
Exploring these questions is important for theory in terms of our understanding of how beliefs about climate change are shaped. It is also important for developing strategies for engaging members of the public in addressing the causes of climate change, and for responding to climate impacts. We hope to contribute to the development of more effective climate science communication in ways that take account of the complex linkages between extreme weather and climate change.
Stuart Capstick, Cardiff University
Christina Demski, Cardiff University
Adam Corner, Cardiff University
Nick Pidgeon, Cardiff University
(also Alexa Spence, Nottingham University – though not Tyndall-affiliated)
June 2014 – May 2015

Public perceptions of shale gas development in the UK and USA

Shale gas is a fossil fuel that can be used to generate electricity and for domestic heating and cooking. Unlike conventional gas, it is trapped in impermeable rock and requires hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’ to extract it. The United States has undergone a shale gas ‘boom’ in the last few decades, and more recently there has been a lot of interest in shale gas prospectivity in the UK. Understanding public perceptions of these technologies is important given the role that they may play in future decisions about them.
This study aims to qualitatively investigate public perceptions of shale gas developments in Britain and the USA, in order to a) gain an understanding of these perceptions and what influence them, and b) provide a comparison between perceptions in a country where shale gas extraction is new, where it is more established. We aim to explore these perceptions through deliberative workshops with members of the public in both countries.
The project is part of a wider work programme of the US National Science Foundation Centre for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara (CNS-UCSB). It is to be carried out as part of the interdisciplinary Risk Perception Group (IRG-3) at the Centre.
Nick Pidgeon
Merryn Thomas
February 2014 – September 2015
US National Science Foundation Centre for Nanotechnology in Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara (CNS-UCSB)
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Risk Perception and Social Response to Nanotechnologies

Funded through two major centre grants from the US National Science Foundation to the Center for Nanotechnology in Society, University of California, Santa Barbara, Cardiff are full partners in a working group of the centre, investigating risk perception and public responses.

Duration: January 2006 - December 2015

Scenarios for the Development of Smart Grids in the UK

Smart Grids offer the potential to transform the ways we produce, deliver, consume and think about energy. This project, which is funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC), aims to advance understanding of Smart Grid roll-out and use through a programme of novel empirical research, developing and evaluating a number of socio-technical scenarios. The project will use expert and public workshops and surveys to develop and evaluate a set of scenarios for the roll-out of smart grids across the UK.

Duration: October 2011 - September 2013

The (non) use of policy assessment tools to feed scientific evidence into policy processes – ‘LIAISE’

The LIAISE – Linking Impact Assessment Instruments to Sustainability Expertise - network aims to provide a focus for international research on the use of evidence, science and assessment tools in policy-making. It is building bridges between those who design such tools and those who actually use or (as is often the case) do not use them to make policy. Professor Andrew Jordan and Dr John Turnpenny are leading a critical area of work on understanding the needs of those producing and using policy analysis tools such as cost benefit analysis and computer models. LIAISE’s centrepiece will be a shared toolbox, simultaneously accessible to and used by policy makers and researchers. LIAISE will also develop a shared research agenda and support capacity-building and training to ensure its research results are fully applied.

Duration: November 2009 – April 2014

Funding: European Commission FP7

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The REDD+ Law Project: Legal frameworks for land development and conservation

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) has emerged out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)/Kyoto Protocol negotiations.  It is one of several different strategies to address climate change that Parties to the UNFCCC have developed as part of their mitigation commitments. Whilst the UNFCCC expressly recognises the importance of sinks in the removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in its foundational principles and commitments, the scope of a REDD+ mechanism has only taken form in the last 7 years (officially being established in 2010).


REDD+ is primarily intended to be a mechanism to channel funding (both public and private) for reducing emissions from the forest sector; however, its implementation is also expected to have numerous co-benefits.  It is therefore worth noting the potential contribution of REDD+ initiatives to the post-2015 development agenda, which includes but is not limited to climate change. 


As an international policy, REDD+ relies on national implementation and requires countries to consider numerous issues.  In order to implement REDD+ initiatives and manage the financial flows linked to them, countries need to design appropriate policy frameworks which in turn need to be supported by robust legal and institutional structures.  Such frameworks could build on existing laws and institutions (such as those linked to forest law and governance), and/or require new law making (for example, to establish benefit distribution systems).  It is important to note that legal and governance issues are relevant in the context of a jurisdictional, nested or project approach to REDD+, and need to be considered whether REDD+ finance is delivered through a non-market or market-based approach. 


Countries seeking to implement REDD+ will need to consider all issues within the context of their unique national circumstances.  The REDD+ Law Project was established by Baker & McKenzie and the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (University of Cambridge) for this purpose.  To date, the REDD+ Law Project has worked with Governments, civil society and the private sector to complete work in Kenya, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia.


The REDD+ Law Project is led by Dr Sophie Chapman of 4CMR in collaboration with Douglas Crawford-Brown and external partners such as Baker & McKenzie. The Project Site below contains papers summarising the results of the various aspects of the project. 


Project site:

Research duration: 2012-2015

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The sources of and obstacles to climate policy innovation – ‘SCOOPI’

In recent years, climate change has metamorphosed from being a scientific issue of fairly marginal political importance to one that has – depending on one’s point of view – potentially transformative and/or disruptive consequences for virtually all policy areas. Experience to date suggests that shifting societies onto a radically less carbon intensive track will require unprecedented levels of societal steering – or ‘governance’. In Europe, this implies that the entire energy system will have to be effectively decarbonised in just over a generation. The aim of this project is firstly to document and explore the conditions under which policy innovation has occurred in multi-level governance systems, taking the EU as the primary focus and then drawing comparisons with comparable systems in the USA and Australia. Secondly, it aims to relate the observed patterns of policy innovation and/or stasis to state of the art theories of public policy to identify critical factors that enable and/or constrain the kinds of significant policy changes that the scientific community claims are needed to reduce the risk of abrupt and possibly irreversible climate change. At a time when natural scientists are anxiously debating the importance of critical ‘tipping points’ in natural systems, this project will in effect explore the scope for ‘tipping’ the multi-level governance systems in large, polluting states to enable significant and enduring policy innovation for climate change governance.

Duration: October 2011 - September 2013

Funding: The Leverhulme Trust (Major Research Fellowship awarded to Andrew Jordan)

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Transforming the UK Energy System: Public Values, Attitudes and Acceptability

This project is funded by the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) and NERC as part of the Research Council UK's (RCUK) Energy Programme. Using different future energy system scenarios as a starting point, this project aims to build knowledge of public views on whole energy system transformation, in order to inform the policymaking process and provide research evidence on how publics engage with notions of low carbon transitions.

Duration: January 2011 - December 2012

Understanding the Dynamics of Domestic Electricity Supply, Consumption and Demand Reduction (EPSRC Top and Tail Grand Challenge)

Innovative ways need to be found of fostering a transition to low carbon, secure, affordable energy systems. Efforts need to focus not only on low carbon forms of energy production, but on ways by which people can reduce their energy consumption in everyday life, including in the home. A key consideration here will be support for people in the uptake of innovative electricity supply technologies. This PhD project will be linked to the EPSRC ‘Top and Tail’ Grand Challenge Network, drawing also upon concepts and methodologies being developed as part of the group’s ESRC project (“Energy Biographies” under the RCUK Energy and Communities Program). The project is in collaboration with the School of Engineering in Cardiff University.

eBRIDGE – empowering electric fleets in European cities

This project looks at the potential of introducing electric vehicles (EVs) in urban areas in fleets – as opposed to individual ownership. Different approaches and business models are compared in six European countries. The project aims at demonstrating the advantages of fleets and shared ownership as more feasible ways for the introduction of EVs, and attempts to draw common conclusions to help policy makers and business partners maximise the use of EVs in cities.
Dimitrios Xenias, Lorraine Whitmarsh
April 2013 to March 2016
European Commission - IEE
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