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Cities, Climate Change, and Multilevel Governance

Research Team:

Dale Medearis

Jan 01, 2009 — Dec 31, 2009
Contact Person:
Miranda Schreurs


Cities represent a challenge and an opportunity for climate change policy. As the hubs of economic activity, cities generate the bulk of GHG emissions and are thus important to mitigation strategies. Urban planning will shape future trends and the concentration of population, socio-economic activity, poverty and infrastructure in urban areas translates into particular vulnerability to increased climate hazards. City governments and urban stakeholders will therefore be essential in the design and delivery of cost-effective adaptation policies. Further, by empowering local governments, national policies could leverage existing local experiments, accelerate policy responses, foster resource mobilization and engage local stakeholders.

This paper presents a framework for multilevel governance, showing that advancing governance of climate change across all levels of government and relevant stakeholders is crucial to avoid policy gaps between local action plans and national policy frameworks (vertical integration) and to encourage cross-scale learning between relevant departments or institutions in local and regional governments (horizontal dimension). Vertical and horizontal integration allows two-way benefits: locally-led or bottom-up where local initiatives influence national action and nationally-led or top-down where enabling frameworks empower local players. The most promising frameworks combine the two into hybrid models of policy dialogue where the lessons learnt are used to modify and fine-tune enabling frameworks and disseminated horizontally, achieving more efficient local implementation of climate strategies.

Such integration generates benefits at all stages of the policy process. This includes agenda setting and strategic planning, to encourage political leadership and stakeholders' support; policy formulation and approval to promote long-term vision and near term action; local implementation to overcome obstacles, build necessary capacity, and establish reliable financing for action; feedback and evaluation; and dissemination to promote information sharing and cross-scale learning.

A review of current practices suggests the need for national governments to help create a sound institutional foundation and knowledge base to support decision making and action at local levels. This includes developing harmonized GHG inventory methods for local government use, boundary organisations to generate regional science-policy or economic-policy information, and developing strong urban climate policy networks. Making such tools available will help local governments to design, implement and refine policies to find cost-effective climate policy solutions and drive economic development in green sectors. It will also help national governments to deliver on ambitious climate policy goals in the coming decades.