Governance Institutions for Sustainability in Globally Telecoupled Systems

Leuphana University of Lüneburg (Germany)

Globally telecoupled systems such as commodity chains, long-range pollution or distant policy-driven effects present complex new challenges for sustainability governance. These are often beyond the capabilities of individual states and even multilateral institutions to regulate. At the same time, the policy and governance interventions of governments and other actors themselves often have a range of unforeseen consequences and knock-on effects. Taking European Union (EU) environmental policy as its primary vantage point, this research will:

  • Identify key institutions, networks of actors and instruments deployed to govern for sustainability in specific case studies of telecoupled systems (e.g. global trade and supply chains and networks), and
  • Assess their impacts with particular attention to so-called ‘policy-driven displacement’ effects, policy spillovers and feed-backs (e.g. increased deforestation resulting from EU biofuels policy).
  • On the basis of this analysis, the research will identify governance levers for effective intervention at multiple levels (from multilateral to local) and among different actors (e.g. governmental, private sector, civil society) to address policy-driven displacement effects.

In carrying out this work, the research will:

  • Conduct interviews and documentary research to chart networks and key actors and structures associated with EU efforts to govern for sustainability in telecoupled systems (focusing on certain specific cases such as agricultural commodity chains or raw resource flows),
  • Analyse and assess the effectiveness (success factors/barriers, social/environmental impacts) of different governance arrangements and their unintended policy-driven displacement effects, and
  • Propose potential policy and governance interventions for increased sustainability in telecoupled systems.


Johanna Coenen

Leuphana University of Lüneburg
Universitätsallee 1, 21335 Lüneburg, Germany

“My aim is to identify which actors, institutions and policy instruments are decisive for the prevention, emergence, detection, coordination and transformation of telecoupled land systems.”

Johanna Coenen

Publications …

Busck-Lumholt, L.M., J. Coenen, J. Persson, O. Mertz, A. Frohn Pedersen & E. Corbera. Telecoupling as a framework to support a more nuanced understanding of causality in Land System Science. Journal of Land Use Science 17:1, 386-406.

Coenen, J., L. Bager, P. Meyfroidt, J. Newig & E. Challies (2020). Environmental Governance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Environmental Policy and Governance 1–15.

Coenen, J., L.M. Glass & L. Sanderink (2021). Two degrees and the SDGs: a network analysis of the interlinkages between transnational climate actions and the Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability Science.

Coenen, J., Newig & P. Meyfroidt (2022). Environmental governance of a Belt and Road project in Montenegro–National agency and external influences. Land Use Policy 119:106136.

Cotta, B., Coenen, E. Challies, J. Newig, A. Lenschow & A. Schilling-Vacaflor (2022). Environmental governance in globally telecoupled systems: Mapping the terrain towards an integrated research agenda. Earth System Governance 13:100142.