ACTS at the Swedish Political Science Association’s annual conference

On 2-4 October, the Swedish Political Science Association holds its annual meeting in Norköping, Sweden. We are there to discuss our work and present two distinct paper drafts.

The Legitimacy of National Orchestration: Studying the Fossil Free Sweden Case for Climate Action

Today the world faces a number of grand challenges that are both daunting and urgent to address. States have historically employed legislative and executive powers to direct societal actors toward common goals. Yet, the scale of the grand challenges that are to be addressed e.g. by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals includes climate change and require significant changes to business as usual. The decarbonisation challenge, in particular, requires states to mobilise a range of actors in order to achieve structural changes in a legitimate manner. Consequently, we have seen the emergence of orchestration attempts by states, whereby they use soft or indirect forms of steering to coordinate and engage non-state actors in order to achieve policy objectives. This type of steering raises a number of pertinent questions: How can such an initiative gain legitimacy amongst the actors that it seeks to orchestrate and how can it maintain this legitimacy in the face of competing interests? Building on recent literature on legitimacy and the role of non-state actors in the fields of international relations and organisational studies, this paper uses the case of the Fossil Free Sweden initiative that the Swedish government launched ahead of the UN climate change conference in Paris in 2015 to highlight key factors and considerations in establishing and maintaining legitimacy in the orchestration of a varied set of non-state actors. Drawing on interviews with the organisers of the initiative, as well as with members and non-members of the initiative, this paper offers new insights into the legitimacy of orchestration with significant implications for how to understand rule-making and governance with the use of intermediaries.

Disrupting the political machinery? Youth Representation in climate change governance

In September 2018, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg initiated a school strike outside the Swedish parliament in defiance of an adult world that has failed to take the mounting climate crisis seriously. In less than a year, Greta’s school strike has inspired a global movement of youth climate activism. Under the label ‘Fridays for Future’ children and youth across several continents now mobilize to put pressure on political leaders to take more radical action on climate change and at this moment secure livable and safe climate futures for generations to come. In this paper, we trace how these youth voices are represented in the realm of global climate governance and the international negotiation process organized around the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the 2015 Paris Agreement. We ask how youth representatives navigate through the international climate talks to achieve their goals, what roles they play and identify with, and what issues of contestation arise from frictions and (ideological) tensions within the youth group. Our study draws upon interviews with youth activists, youth delegates, and UNFCCC representatives, document analysis, as well as participant observation at the UN climate meeting in Bonn. Based on a governmentality perspective, we investigate how fields of visibility, practices, and techniques, forms of knowledge, and formations of identify shape the conduct of youth in climate politics. As a result, we present a typology with three competing rationales behind youth engagement in global climate politics: A rational approach complies with established rules and institutions, (2) a radical approach is more disruptive and confrontational, and (3) a collective approach aims to develop synergies between cooperative and confrontational measures. By contrasting these strategies, we seek to advance the understanding of children and youth as political subjects in global climate governance and hereby push the study of youth representation in global affairs in new and productive directions.

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