How are environmental policy goals implemented and sustained in the context of political stagnation surrounding national climate policies in the United States? In this paper, we discuss Ecological Modernization Theory as a tool for understanding the complexity of climate governance at the sub-national level. In particular, we explore the emergence of hybrid governance arrangements during the local implementation of federal energy efficiency programs in US cities. We analyze the formation and advancement of programs associated with one effort to establish a sub-national low carbon energy policy: the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program administered by the US Department of Energy. Our findings highlight the diverse range of partnerships between state, private, and civil society actors that emerged through this program and point to some of the challenges associated with collaborative climate governance initiatives at the city level. Although some programs reflected ecologically modern outcomes, other cities were constrained in their ability to move beyond the status quo due to the demands of state bureaucracies and the challenges associated with inconsistent funding. We find that these programs cultivated hybrid arrangements in an effort to sustain the projects following the termination of federal grant funding. Overall, hybrid governance plays an important role in the implementation and long-term sustainability of climate-related policies.
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