The conditions under which policy beliefs and influential actors shape collaborative behaviour in governance networks are not well understood. This article applies exponential random graph models to network data from Finland and Sweden to investigate how beliefs, reputational power and the role of public authorities structure collaboration ties in the two countries’ climate change governance networks. Results show that only in Finland's conflictual climate policy domain do actors collaborate with those with similar beliefs and with reputational power, while only in Sweden's consensual climate policy domain do public authorities play central impartial coordinating roles. These results indicate that conflict is present in a governance network when beliefs and reputational power determine collaboration and that it is absent when public authorities occupy central roles. They also suggest that relative success in climate policy action is likely to occur when public authorities take on network manager roles.