Governing Climate Change: Theory and Practice

Climate change may well be the most pressing environmental challenge facing humankind. Yet despite scientific consensus on its main cause – us – politicians and governments still lack the will and ambition to tackle the crisis effectively. Instead we see cities, companies and NGOs responding. They have become the driving forces behind innovative tools for behavioural change, creating a complex alternative web of institutions, instruments and actors seeking to govern climate change at the global level.

Session 14 July to 18 July 2020
Course levelMaster, open to PhD staff and professionals
Co-ordinating lecturers                
Prof. Dr. Philipp Pattberg
Other lecturersDr. Oscar Widerberg
Forms of tuitionLectures, excursions, discussions, group work, games
Forms of assessmentShort essay (1500 words)
Credits3 ECTS
Contact hours45 hours
Tuition fee€1150, read more about what's included
Accommodation and social programme
How to apply
Find our application form here

Master or PhD students and professions with an interest in climate action and policy. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please let us know. Students who are in their final year of bachelors studies or have obtained a full bachelors degree are able to register for this course. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.

On this course you examine different approaches to coping with climate change, from international agreements to market-based solutions and private activities. Theory is mixed with practice through lectures, discussions, games and excursions to provide concrete examples of how the issue is being addressed at various levels and by various actors. Along the way we invite you to question scientists, policymakers and lobbyists.

Governing Climate Change is embedded in the teaching and research work of the Department for Environmental Policy Analysis (EPA), part of VU Amsterdam’s world-renowned Institute for Environmental Studies. In 2014 EPA was rated the best Dutch research group in environmental economics, sociology and policy.

At the end of this course, you will:

  • Understand how global climate governance has changed over the past 40 years and where it might take us in the future. 
  • Be able to critically examine and assess current climate governance in terms of its emergence, effectiveness and efficiency, and be able to formulate reasoned opinions about contested concepts like fairness, legitimacy, equity and justice.
  • Improve your communication and debating skills on climate change.
  • Experience practical local and global solutions to climate-change issues in the Netherlands.

Philipp Pattberg is professor of transnational environmental governance and policy at and head of the Department of Environmental Policy Analysis, Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), VU Amsterdam. He teaches Master’s courses in environmental governance at the Faculty of Sciences and the Faculty of Social Sciences. Pattberg specializes in the study of global environmental politics, with a focus on private transnational governance, multi-stakeholder partnerships, network theory and institutional analysis. His work has been published in leading scientific journals including Annual Review of Environment and Resources, European Journal of International Relations, Global Environmental Politics, Governance, and Science. Pattberg’s most recent book is the Encyclopedia of Global Environmental Governance and Politics (co-edited with Fariborz Zelli, Edward Elgar 2015).

“Climate Change is the most pressing challenge of our time. Coming to Amsterdam will equip you with the necessary tools to contribute to a solution.”

Oscar Widerberg is Assistant Professor at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM). He has been studying and working with sustainability issues for the past 10 years, both in academia and in the private sector. Dr. Widerberg’s research focuses on how cities, companies and other non-state actors engage with climate change. He has a bachelor in international relations from Malmo University, a master in environmental science from Utrecht University and a PhD from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

The course includes three excursions: 

  • Greenpeace International (Non-Governmental Organization) 
  • De Ceuvel (city playground for innovation and creativity) 
  • Guided bike tour through Amsterdam (with focus on sustainability and local climate change issues)

To be announced.

"Overall we went through a large amount of issues that are currently present in climate change governance and wrapping up our course we discussed many effects of current policy, ranging from community to regional, national, and global policy areas. I did learn that climate change is a complex issue that involved many different actors, state actors, national states, and in my opinion we know what we should do to correct for climate change's effects. We are not doing exactly what we can be doing and that is often overlooked by policy makers because private interests are involved and the humaitarian or the socially conscious ideas are neglected because nations still want to retain their power and influence on the global stage." -Wes Oler

Do you want to make the most out of your summer? You can combine this course with the following course in session 2:

Feeding the Billions: Challenges and Innovation in Food and Water Security