The governance of climate change has traditionally been conceived as an issue of international co-operation and considered through the lens of regime analysis. Increasingly, scholars of global governance have highlighted the multiple parallel initiatives involving a range of actors at different levels of governance through which this issue is being addressed. In this paper, we argue that this phenomenon warrants a re-engagement with some of the conceptual cornerstones of international studies. We highlight the conceptual challenges posed by the increasing involvement of non-nation-state actors (NNSAs) in the governance of climate change and explore the potential for drawing from alternative theoretical traditions to address these challenges. Specifically, the paper combines insights from neo-Gramscian and governmentality perspectives as a means of providing the critical space required to generate deeper understanding of: (a) the nature of power in global governance; (b) the relationship between public and private authority; (c) the dynamics between structure and agency; and (d) the rationalities and practices of governance.

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Author notes

* Earlier drafts of this article were presented at the 2007 Amsterdam Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change and at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, in San Francisco, in 2008.

We thank the participants in these conferences and Diana Liverman, Alex Haxeltine, Heather Lovell, Karin Bäckstrand, Frank Biermann, Peter Newell, Fariborz Zelli, Andrew Jordan, and the editors and anonymous reviewers for Global Environmental Politics for insightful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.