This research investigates the impacts of structural characteristics of multilevel governance on the emergence, diffusion and implementation of institutional innovation. By establishing a comparison between multilateral governance and multilevel governance, it sheds light into the dynamics of actors’ interactions in a cycle of change constrained by governance structures that might lead to institutional innovation. The different characteristics of the governance structures are determined by how authority is allocated among actors, jurisdictions and how it is exercised. Structural configurations affect three power dimensions present in actors’ interactions in the cycle of change: leverage power, exit options and social power. The hypotheses were tested against the evidence provided by a case study of forests in the context of the climate change regime from the 1980s to 2017. This interval was divided into four periods to analyze the institutional outcomes of political processes in function of the variance of the governance structure, contrasting predominant multilateral structures (T1-T2) and multilevel structures (T3-T4). This research finds that multilevel governance favors institutional innovation by providing a larger number of actors with exit options and social power in the form of material and non-material resources to diffuse and successfully implement institutional innovation in a larger number of jurisdictions. It also contributes to the literature by proposing a typology for institutional change and innovation.