Globalization has led to a gradually more interconnected world, a trend that will continue into the next century with a ballooning population. The earth’s population is predicted to grow by roughly a quarter from the current 7.7 billion to 9.7 billion by mid-century [1
]. This will translate into an additional 13 percent increase in urban areas, rising from 55% in 2018 to 68% in 2050 [2
]. This growth means that cities will play an ever more important role in sustainable development. As such, poorly governed urban transitions can lead to environmental degradation, and increased carbon dioxide emissions resulting in temperature rise in excess of the 1.5–2 degrees of the Paris Climate Agreement. The thrust to decarbonise urban societies and for low-carbon solutions to meet the needs of growing populations for the transformative change required for the 1.5 °C trajectory was stressed in the IPCC special report, ‘Global warming of 1.5 °C’ [3
]. Urbanization and its accompanying economic and infrastructure development could add an additional 250 GtCO2
by 2050, out of a carbon budget of 800 GtCO2
to keep warming well below two degrees above pre-industrial levels [4
]. The science is clear; cities are major emitters of CO2
and as such, it is imperative that they take measures to address climate change.
Cities are motivated to act as they feel the impacts of climate change in the form of extreme weather events due to their location in floodplains, along coasts, or in extremely dry areas. In 2019, such events included flooding in Venice in April, extreme temperatures exceeding 40 °C in Madrid, Montpellier in Europe, and wildfires in Serbia that affected western cities [5
]. Expanding cities face stressors such as storm surges, sea level rise, coastal erosion, soil, water salination, and land subsidence [6
]. Heat waves in cities are amplified by urban heat islands [3
]. Urban areas are also susceptible to higher mortality rates and other impacts on human health due to increased UV and ozone concentration resulting from pollution worsened by climate change [6
]. The crisis events have been used by cities as windows of opportunity for transformative shifts. Extreme weather events such as floods or droughts can be labeled as windows of opportunity when harnessed by society to enhance long-term adaptation [7
]. They have often led to changes in the rules and decision-making process of cities, leading to new policies and shifts in ways cities and climate change are governed to include the public and broader stakeholders in the decision making process.
The inclusion of stakeholders in the climate change process is not new. It can be traced to the Rio Earth Summit (the 1992 UN conference on Environment and Development) where the agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was inked, with the objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous human stimulated effects on the climate system [8
]. The inclusiveness of climate governance can be traced to the preamble to the terms of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change [8
] that calls for “the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions”. This statement refers to the common responsibility of all states, but recognizes the varying degrees that states can enter into a collective response, based on their socioeconomic conditions and their contribution to the problem. One way that states can enter into response to include the public is further stipulated in Article 4 Commitments, 1(i) [8
] (p. 6), where all Parties are required to “promote and cooperate in education, training and public awareness related to climate change, and encourage the widest participation in the process, including that of non-governmental organizations”.
The implementation of this commitment is elaborated in Article 6, Education, training, and public awareness, which discusses public access to information, training, and public participation in measures to combat climate change and its effects at the national, regional, and sub-regional levels, the levels closer to cities. As such, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change inked in 1992 represents a process with a wide participation of stakeholders outside the bureaucratic top down decision-making process, as the main actors at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change were environmental groups and businesses in addition to governments. Since then, there has been an eruption in the multiplicity of engaged actors; these include the manufacturing industry, big oil companies such as BP with its renewables section, insurance companies, carbon traders, forestry organizations, and cities, in what has been termed as new actors in climate governance experiments [9
]. The recognition of these new actors in the formal lawmaking process of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change can be traced to the Cancun Agreements in 2010, where local and subnational governments were recognized as governmental stakeholders, under a shared vision for long-term cooperative action [10
This inclusion of actors other than government into the climate regime was further reinforced at the Conference of the Parties (COP20) on December 2014, in Lima, Peru, with the launching of the online Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA) [11
]. This Climate Action Portal (as the NAZCA online platform is called) tracks and summarizes individual and joint actions by non-state and sub-state actors. To date, there are 12,468 stakeholders registered on the site, of which 9378 are cities [11
]. Momentum was gained from the 2014 action summit in New York, organized by the UN Secretary General, where the Lima-Paris Action Agenda was launched with the goal of bringing stakeholders from civil society together to stimulate climate commitments and implement actions [12
]. This initiative of the governments of France, Peru, the UN Secretary General, and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat, intended to highlight the importance and power of collaboration by boosting the operational efficiency of actions to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change. It included the ‘MobiliseYourCity’ program to help 100 cities and 20 developing countries toward implementing sustainable mobility strategies by 2020, with the involved cities committing to reducing carbon emissions from public transportation by 50–75% [12
]. More commitments were made in 2015, and this momentum was built up to the COP 21 in Paris.
This momentum was carried forward in the Conference of the Parties (COP21) on December 2015, where 195 countries adopted the Paris agreement. This agreement is the global call to action to prevent disastrous climate change through limiting global warming well below 2 °C and aiming for 1.5 °C [13
]. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016, when at least 55 Parties to the Convention, accounting for at least 55% of total greenhouse gas emissions, deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval, or accession [13
]. It recognized the role of non-party stakeholders by dedicating section V to them (p. 19), calling on them to address and respond to climate change by scaling up efforts and supporting actions to reduce emissions, building resilience, decreasing vulnerability to the effects of climate change (and to record these actions in the NAZCA) [13
]. It called on civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities, and other subnational authorities to strengthen knowledge, technologies, practices, and efforts of local communities and indigenous people, and also stressed the importance of incentives for carbon reductions including carbon pricing and other domestic policies [13
]. The Paris Agreement also appointed two high level champions (Article 122) to coordinate the annual high-level event and to engage with all stakeholders, including the non-party stakeholders, to further the voluntary actions of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda [13
]. Hence, the action of cities and other non-state stakeholders were recognized as important to the achievement of the terms of the Paris Agreement and thus explicitly written into the agreement.
The City of Turku is one of the cities registered on the Global Climate Action (NAZCA) portal, with three logged actions, out of the 30 actions by 12 cities in Finland found on the system [11
]. The first action is cooperative, as part of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate Change and Energy to combat climate change and move to a low carbon, resilient society. The other two are logged as individual actions, for half of the city energy production to come from renewables by 2020, and for a 100% CO2
emissions reduction from 2013 to 2040 [11
]. The City of Turku has further launched the ‘Turku Climate Plan 2029’ on 11 June 2018, for a carbon neutral city area by 2029 [14
]. The plan focuses on both adaptation and mitigation strategies, and was prepared according to the common model of the European Union (EU) (SECAP, sustainable energy and climate action plan) with key milestones for years 2021, 2025, and 2029. There are six measures outlined as necessary to meet the targets, two of which directly target citizen outreach and engagement. These two measures speak to mobilizing communities as partners in the climate plan and to raise awareness to climate change. Given the importance of stakeholder engagement to the success of Turku’s climate policy, this paper examines stakeholder engagement in the City of Turku climate policies from a governance perspective. It asks the question, how does stakeholder participation materialize in the City of Turku carbon neutral planning process? It aims at giving a snapshot of baseline stakeholder participation in the processes of the City of Turku carbon neutral aspirations. This paper is meant to add perspective on the topic of stakeholder engagement in carbon neutral planning processes, with a methodology limited mainly to document analysis.
2. Participatory Governance
The term governance implies a moving away from state control to include other actors in the decision-making process. This decentralization of policy processes has been advocated in the European White Paper on governance [15
]. The inclusion of stakeholders in environmental decision-making was propelled through EU directives such as the Water Framework Directive and its accompanying Public Participation Directive [16
]. The common implementation strategy guidance document 8 states that, despite the cost, time, and energy demand, public participation pays off in the end, but is not an end of itself, rather “a tool to achieve the environmental objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive” [17
]. Participatory governance has the potential to improve decision-making processes as they incorporate local knowledge and open up the political arena for environmental interests [18
]. Participatory governance has been formally defined as ‘‘the processes and structures of public decision making that engage actors from the private sector, civil society and or the public at large, with varying degrees of communication, collaboration and delegation of decision making power to participants” [19
Engaging the public in environmental decision-making processes is seen as one of the responses to the general lack of effectiveness of environmental policy [19
]. The characteristics of climate change as a ‘wicked problem’ with no easy fix solutions, and competing sources of knowledge, values, and interests lends itself easily to public engagement. Climate change is a global problem with local impacts, and its complexity and differing scales makes it a requirement ‘to take account of microscopic as well as macroscopic aspects’ [20
] (p. 140), such as the involvement of actors at different scales. It is a problem that encompasses all sectors of society, thus making coordination necessary across policy areas. The uncertainties and incomplete scientific knowledge on the effectiveness of renewables, e.g., make it necessary to incorporate knowledge from all stakeholders, especially indigenous stakeholders, for a more complete understanding and for workable solutions. The uncertainty related to environmental justice, who the victims are, who are the causes of the problem, and where resources should be allocated, makes it necessary to engage actors at all levels, sectors, and ‘walks’ of society for a truly inclusive approach. This will allow the incorporation of different ways of seeing the world and different value judgments by persons who are affected by and affecting the problem, thus enhancing the legitimacy of the decision-making process [19
]. Finally, since climate change is irreversible and some damages cannot be repaired, preventative and proactive approaches require diverse knowledge and experiments, and the application of the precautionary principle.
The latitude of this paper is limited to giving a snapshot of stakeholder participation in the City of Turku carbon neutral planning processes. Stakeholder participation refers to allowing the public to influence plans and decision-making processes [17
]. The indicators used in this assessment address the design of the City of Turku carbon neutral plan, and the implementation of the terms within that plan. In this study, the term public means stakeholders who are affected by or can affect the carbon neutral decision-making process through either receiving information, consultation, or active participation [17
]. Further, concerning this process, information supply refers to the provision of public access to information on decision-making processes related to carbon neutral planning, whilst consultation implies giving the stakeholders time to react to plans and proposals developed by the municipality. At the other end of the spectrum, active involvement necessitates giving stakeholders a voice in the decision-making process [17
The literature has not provided a consensus on the benefits of stakeholder participation in environmental decision-making. There are equal examples of participatory processes that led to tangible environmental and social benefits, as there are examples that led to negative outcomes or a failure to meet goals or expectations [21
]. Some explanations of the negative outcomes suggest that lower levels of engagement are a form of manipulation and as such advocate for more democratic, co-productive modes [22
]. The positive environmental outcomes from participatory processes are not guaranteed, but are dependent on factors spanning three dimensions: breadth of involvement, communication and collaboration, and power delegation to participants [19
]. Stakeholders can influence environmental outcomes when there is professional facilitation, which helps to overcome power imbalances, and co-optation of environmental groups, when there is less trustful setting that avoids co-optation and when there are adequate resources [19
]. There is consensus in the literature that the quality of the participatory process strongly influences the quality of the decision output [17
]. This is the basis of this review, which focuses on the quality of the participatory processes rather than the quality of the decisions made. This methodology was developed with the target audience in mind. In addition to the academic audience, this paper is targeted at city officials, both the City of Turku and other cities who are starting to think about or are in the process of designing carbon neutral plans.
3.1. Evaluating Stakeholder Participation
The word evaluation might connote a subjective judgment about a process or thing. However, as used here, it is the objective and systematic determination of the public participation process in order to pinpoint achievements and highlight gaps that can form the basis of improvement. Assessments can be done via both quantitative and qualitative criteria, but this study is qualitative, as it is exploratory in nature. In this study, the evaluation criteria are important in defining the evaluation framework. This is difficult for, as stated before, there is lack of consensus in the literature as to what represents effective best practices in public participation. This black box of stakeholder participation means that there is no recipe or universally accepted method of evaluating stakeholder participation. However, there are approaches that can be used for specific contexts that focus on key elements of the public participation process [17
One popular evaluation framework is the Arnstein ladder of public participation, which shows increasing levels of stakeholder participation, starting with nonparticipation on the bottom rung to citizen control on the topmost rung of the ladder [22
] (Figure 1
Whilst this ladder is useful metaphor for representing stages of citizen participation, it assumes that higher rungs of the ladder are superior to the lower rungs. However, whilst citizen control or delegated power might be useful in some situations, consultation is also useful in other contexts. Reed conducted a grounded theory analysis of the literature on public participation and came up with eight good practices as follows [21
]: i. Stakeholder participation needs to be underpinned by a philosophy that emphasizes empowerment, equity, trust, and learning; ii. Where relevant, stakeholder participation should be considered as early as possible and throughout the process; iii. Relevant stakeholders need to be analyzed and represented systematically; iv. Clear objectives for the participatory process need to be agreed among stakeholders at the outset; v. Methods should be selected and tailored to the decision-making context, considering the objectives, type of participants, and appropriate level of engagement; vi. Highly skilled facilitation is essential; vii. Local and scientific knowledge should be integrated; and viii. Participation needs to be institutionalized. Although these factors have gained general agreement in the literature, they focus mostly on the quality of the participation process and not on the perception of the participation process. The literature also identifies nine criteria that evaluate not only the participatory process but also the public’s acceptance of it [23
Evaluation criteria can also be found in the social learning literature. Social learning can be seen as an important outcome of successful public participation processes and as such, factors that are important for it are relevant also for assessing public participation [24
]. The EU common implementation guidelines for the EU Water Framework Directive offer a ten-point evaluation framework that aims to evaluate both the participation process and the impacts of that process [17
] (Figure 2
). It starts with the objective of the participation and ends with the outcomes achieved.
This document then goes on to discuss three categories of factors that competent authorities will need to evaluate their own practices and improve the design of public participation in the future: context, content, and process. Context factors refer to existing conditions under which public participation is being developed, and include factors such as the political and cultural environment, environmental conditions, resources, and scale of project [17
]. Process factors refer to ways in which stakeholders participate, and include factors such as early involvement, facilitation, and respect [17
]. Factors relating to content include valuing diversity of knowledge, evidence and proof, uncertainty, and reporting and communication [17
]. This study uses an evaluation framework from the literature that builds on this work. It focuses on procedure (quality of participation process) and perception (perception of the quality of the procedure) criteria for each of the three participation levels; proactive information (PI), consultation (C), and Active Involvement (AI) [25
]. This is shown in Table 1
It gives importance to the perception of the procedure by the stakeholders, as this is essential for engagement and acceptance. In addition, it recognizes that poorly designed procedures that are accepted by the participants can lead to less than optimal decisions [25
Although these criteria were developed with the EU Water Framework Directive in mind, they are applicable to climate change, as climate and water are inextricably linked. Further, they are applicable to environmental policy making within the EU context. Originating from the common implementation strategy [17
], it reflects the work of governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders in EU countries, drawing from diverse points of view. Since the City of Turku based its carbon plan on the EU Sustainable Energy and Climate Plan (SECAP), using an EU endorsed public participation criteria fits well into the objective of this study. The first element listed as a criterion for success in the EU SECAP is to “build support from stakeholders and citizen participation: if they support the SECAP, nothing should stop it” [26
3.2. Data Collection and Analysis
This study is based on a content analysis of the City of Turku Climate Neutral Plan 2029 and key documents, such as press releases, relating to the plan. The information contained therein is further elaborated through a key informant interview with a member of the Turk Climate Neutral Plan 2029 writing and design team. For the content analysis, the researcher developed operational definitions of the procedure and perception criteria found in Table 1
. The limitation of this paper is that it relies mainly on document analysis and supplemental information from one interview. As such, the main aim of this paper is to add perspective on the topic of stakeholder engagement in carbon neutral planning processes and hence, advance the dialogue on this topic.
The goal of this paper was to present a snapshot of stakeholder participation in the carbon neutral planning processes of the City of Turku, in Southwest Finland. This was done using a framework of stakeholder participation that assesses both the participatory process and the perception of this process by its participants. Since it is exploratory, it is based on document analysis, with elaboration from a key informant interview with a City of Turku official.
This study found that stakeholder engagement, which is a crucial part of the SECAP planning process, was very limited during the development of the City of Turku carbon neutral planning process. The key informant interview revealed that the City of Turku Carbon neutral plan was developed in a week of closed-door team meeting by city staff at the request of council officials. As such, there was inadequate outside stakeholder input into the plan development process, thus potentially limiting the legitimacy of the process. This is also in contradiction with the SECAP stakeholder engagement process, which states that at this stage, stakeholders provide data and share knowledge, participate in the definition of the vision, and participate in the designing of the plan and its elaboration. Since stakeholders were not involved in this process from the beginning, it has the potential to impede implementation through the loss of legitimacy, and through a potentially incorrect plan with incomplete knowledge. A recommendation to bridge this barrier is to consult with stakeholders seeking their inputs on the current plan with the aim to modify the plan by incorporating their views.
This study found that the public participatory processes do not meet the requirements of the EU SECAP process, which, like the EU Water Framework Directive, engages stakeholders at three levels: informing, consulting, and active involvement. There was neither informing, consulting, nor involvement of key public stakeholders in the development of the carbon neutral plan. However, there is some level of all of these processes after the plan was developed. In order to fulfill the requirements of the EU SECAP and the public access to information directive, it is recommended that a public–private stakeholder steering committee be established as partners for steering and implementation of the City of Turku Climate Neutral Plan. Information on this process could be obtained from the city of Sondenborg’s (Denmark) example of public–private partnership ‘ProjectZero’. ProjectZero aims to inspire and drive Sodenborg’s carbon neutral achievement in 2020 through partnerships and cooperation with key actors, and through brand ZERO on all activity sectors (ZEROfamilies, ZERObusiness, ZEROshops). Elements of this example for increasing visibility and buy in should be emulated by the City of Turku.
In the future it is vital to continue informing, consulting and engaging stakeholders through meetings, public forums and as partners in the decision-making process. It will be crucial to monitor the evolution of the participatory process to identify gaps and make necessary improvements. The results of the participatory process and its capacity to effectively engage stakeholders in the decision-making process should be assessed. This evaluation should spill over into public engagement in the drafting and approval of strategies, regulations, and legislation that influence the implementation of projects to achieve the carbon neutral goal in 2029.