SDG 13 and the entwining of climate and sustainability metagovernance: an archaeological-genealogical analysis of goals-based climate governance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – This paper brings insights from accounting scholarship to the measurement and reporting challenges of metagovernance approaches to sustainable development. Where scholarship on metagovernance—the combination of market, hierarchical and network governance—proposes deductive approaches to such challenges, we contend that a historically-informed ‘abductive’ approach offers valuable insight into the realpolitik of intergovernmental frameworks.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper adopts a Foucauldian ‘archaeological-genealogical’ method to investigate the inclusion of climate change as a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). It analyses more than 100 documents and texts, tracking the statement forms that crystallise prevailing truth claims across the development of climate and SDG metagovernance.

Findings – We show how the truth claims now enshrined in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change constrained the conceptualisation and operationalisation of SDG 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts. The paper thereby reframes recent measurement and reporting challenges as outcomes of conceptual conflicts between the technicist emphasis of divisions within the United Nations and the truth claims enshrined in intergovernmental agreements.

Originality/value – This paper demonstrates how an archaeological-genealogical approach may start to address the measurement and reporting challenges facing climate and SDG metagovernance. It also highlights that the two degrees target on climate change has a manifest variability of interpretation and shows how this characteristic has become pivotal to operationalising climate metagovernance in a manner that respects the sovereignty of developing nations.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1731-1759
Number of pages29
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2020


  • Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 13, metagovernance, archaeological-genealogical analysis, accounting for sustainable development, the Paris Agreement on climate change