Political leadership as meta-governance in sustainability transitions
A case study analysis of meta-governance in the case of the Dutch national agreement on climate
Sustainability (Switzerland) , Volume 11 - Issue 1
Sustainability transitions are of an inherently political nature. In particular, discussions on climate policy are dominated by national and international politics. Furthermore, sustainability transitions involve network governance in which both private, public, and societal actors are involved. These governance processes call for closely scrutinizing their performance in terms of democratic legitimacy. To study and assess the democratic quality of governance processes regarding climate policy, this article focuses on the role of political leadership, conceptualized as political meta-governance, in enhancing the democratic legitimacy in the field of sustainability transitions. In doing so, it examines the case of the Dutch National Agreement on Climate ("Nationaal Klimaatakkoord"). The findings of this study underline the theoretical assumption that governments seek to use network governance to address climate change and develop policies. Seeking to address the application of political meta-governance, this study finds that political leaders struggle to bring about a fully-fledged, deliberative, and integrative meta-governance approach. However, disparate meta-governance strategies are reported. Although democratic legitimacy concerning the Dutch Agreement on Climate in terms of accountability can be regarded as high, values concerning voice (inclusiveness) and due deliberation (transparency) score comparatively low. As such, this study further justifies the close attention governance scholars and practitioners pay to the democratic values at stake when governing through governance networks.