Environmental Governance Section

The Environmental Governance section is a vibrant international team of about sixty researchers. We form one of the four research groups of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, one of the world’s leading research institutes in sustainability science.

Our research programme contributes to both sustainability science and policy development by offering novel and policy-relevant insights into the functioning of governance arrangements at local, regional, national and global levels. In all our activities, we seek to combine theoretical advancement and empirical-analytical research designs with normative critique and prescriptive, policy design-oriented recommendations.

Three analytical themes

  1. Modes of governance: institutional design and effectiveness
  2. The normative foundations of governance: social justice and democratic legitimacy
  3. The transformation of governance and the governance of societal transformations

Six focus areas

  1. Global sustainability governance
  2. Sustainable urban development
  3. Regional socio-ecological systems
  4. Climate governance
  5. Water governance
  6. Governance of sustainable economies

Our comprehensive programme for 2022-2026 is titled "Governance for a Sustainable World".


Home to a leading international network

Prof. Frank Biermann is the founding chair of the Earth System Governance Project, the world’s largest research network in the field of sustainability governance to date. The International Project Office (IPO) has been based at Utrecht University since January 2019.

Head of Section