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Political Science General

The New Climate Activism

NGO Authority and Participation in Climate Change Governance

by (author) Jen Allan

University of Toronto Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2021
General, Environmental Conservation & Protection, General
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    Publish Date
    Jan 2021
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  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Dec 2020
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    Publish Date
    Jan 2021
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At the 2019 UN climate change conference, activists and delegates from groups representing Indigenous, youth, women, and labour rights were among those marching through the halls chanting "Climate Justice, People Power." In The New Climate Activism, Jen Iris Allan looks at why and how these social activists came to participate in climate change governance while others, such as those working on human rights and health, remain on the outside of climate activism.


Through case studies of women’s rights, labour, alter-globalization, health, and human rights activism, Allan shows that some activists sought and successfully gained recognition as part of climate change governance, while others remained marginalized. While concepts key to some social activists, including gender mainstreaming, just transition, and climate justice are common terms, human rights and health remain "fringe issues" in climate change governance. The New Climate Activism explores why and how these activists brought their issues to climate change, and why some succeeded while others did not.

About the author

Jen Iris Allan is a lecturer in the School of Law and Politics at Cardiff University.

Jen Allan's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"The book leverages literatures from international relations and comparative politics and will prove very useful in curricula on both subjects. The author seeks to prepare readers for engagement in activism within the climate change regime under the Paris Agreement, [while] also raising new questions with respect to NGO influence and authority."


"Allan’s work is not only a fresh look at climate politics but a different way to think about the politics of global issue networks more generally."

<em>Global Policy</em>

"An important contribution to the literature, The New Climate Activism’s theoretical framework explains why and how civil society networks from outside the climate change realm come to participate in the UNFCCC, or not. Empirical evidence is marshalled to demonstrate the plausibility of this framework, which emphasizes both NGOs’ motivation to join and their ability to find the narratives, cohesion, allies, and institutional hooks to achieve recognition in the regime. Jen Iris Allan provides a valuable analysis helping us understand when and how civil society can come comes to matter within a multilateral setting. This is a significant work of scholarship that will appeal to audiences interested in global environmental politics and the role of civil society in multilateral fora."

Thomas Hale, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

"This is an excellent book, packed with insights into the evolving global response to climate change and global governance writ large. In focusing on how and when diverse NGO networks are able to move into and gain authority in new issues areas, Allan is able to both explain the transformation of climate change from an environmental/economic issue into a social one and provide a general framework for better understanding NGO participation in and impact upon global governance. Her mixed method approach makes for vibrant and compelling accounts of labour, gender, justice, human rights, and health NGO networks’ experience with accessing and influencing the climate regime. The New Climate Activists is a must-read for those interested in climate change politics and the dynamics of global governance."

Matthew Hoffmann, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto Scarborough

"It is now taken for granted that the climate crisis is a justice issue, one affecting the social fabric of human life on the planetThat the climate crisis is an issue of justice that affects the social fabric of human life on the planet is now taken for granted. Long before Greta Thunberg mobilized youth around similar ideas, several NGO and activist networks new to climate politics fought to bring social concerns – from gender, and labour, to Indigenous issues, and justice more broadly – into global climate negotiations. Some successfully changed international agreements and thinking, often despite resistance from more established climate activists, while others remained marginalized. Jennifer Iris Allaen’s richly textured study explains why some succeeded while others remained marginalized. ItsHer focus on NGO strategies to gain authority and recognition in multiple forums not only challenges conventional thinking on how change occurs in global governance, but, it provides the backstory of how networks of labour, gender, and justice NGOs transformed the climate change issue."

Steven Bernstein, Distinguished Professor of Global Environmental and Sustainability Governance, University of Toronto

"Global climate activism today looks very different than it did twenty years ago. In The New Climate Activism, Dr. Allan has - uniquely - captured how the movement has expanded and diversified over time. She demonstrates convincingly why gender, labor, human rights and health advocacy groups have thrown their energy into climate politics, and why they have not all succeeded. Further, she shows how climate justice activism became so visible in the climate regime, and so important."

Kate O'Neill, Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley