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Bringing Governance Back Home — Lessons for Local Government regarding Rapid Climate Action

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Social Ecology and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 October 2021) | Viewed by 25409

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Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK
Interests: sustainability transitions; government of complex systems; future cities, infrastructures and mobility systems; China and the world
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK
Interests: energy and climate governance; deliberative democratic approaches to climate change
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

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Guest Editor
Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YW, UK
Interests: expert & lay knowledges; experiments in democracy; participatory governance; environment-society relations; science and technology studies
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

There is a growing recognition both that rapid action on climate change is urgently necessary, and that many of the responsibilities for this action (e.g., around transport, land use planning and economic development) rest at a local level. This is attested to by the growing number of local authorities internationally that have declared climate emergencies. Responding to this emergency will require significant changes to the assumptions, expectations, priorities and procedures of locally elected representatives and government officials.

Two apparently contradictory narratives emerge out of the arena of (local) responses to climate change, in the context of climate as a failure of governance relations between state and diverse non-state actors. On the one hand, effective and/or ‘resilient’ climate governance can be understood as a matter of building polities (including politicians, citizens and public, private and third sectors) capable of governing themselves collaboratively. This both blurs conventional dualisms between the governing and the governed, expert and lay, ordinary citizens and decision-makers and challenges orthodox norms of governance, building on decades of research and advocacy around the democratization of science and participation in technoscientific decision-making. On the other, it can be understood as speaking to a need for constantly improving but still-professionalized institutional divisions of labour of governance, which includes capacities for strong governmental leadership informed by rigorous independent scientific analysis. This, in turn, poses a challenge to more critical, heterodox approaches to governance, which have been argued to provide a utopian and/or overly holistic account of participatory governance, neglecting a multitude of embedded relations of power that are not easily disentangled, and fetishizing the capacity of ‘the local’ as the scale at which competing priorities can best be resolved.

This Special Issue will explore the responses of local government across the world to the need for rapid climate action. We are particularly interested in the lived experience of local politicians, officers and those engaging with them in adapting to this challenge and driving the response. While questions of technical solutions and policy design for rapid climate action have been well studied, little attention has been paid to the crucial question of how such outcomes might be implemented, by whom, and how action is enabled or constrained by the institutional and other sociotechnical relations in which these actors are embedded.

We welcome contributions that will address this gap in the literature by exploring what it might mean to ‘bring governance back home’: responding to these contradictory narratives in ways that acknowledge the practical necessity of smaller, more human scales and modes of governance, while grounding normative speculation about models of governance in the empirical and power realities of doing local climate governance in practice.

* This is a Sustainability/World Joint Special Issue. You can find the Special Issue on World by clicking: https://www.mdpi.com/journal/world/special_issues/government_climate_action1

Prof. Dr. David Tyfield
Prof. Rebecca Willis
Dr. Andy Yuille
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • local government
  • climate change
  • lived experience
  • expert/lay knowledge
  • governance
  • participation

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Editorial

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18 pages, 843 KiB  
Editorial
Introduction to the Special Issue “Bringing Governance Back Home: Lessons for Local Government Regarding Rapid Climate Action”
by David Tyfield and Andy Yuille
Sustainability 2022, 14(9), 5310; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14095310 - 28 Apr 2022
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1459
Abstract
There is a growing recognition both that rapid action on climate change is urgently necessary, and that many of the responsibilities for this action (e [...] Full article
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Research

Jump to: Editorial

23 pages, 1044 KiB  
Article
The Remaking of Institutions for Local Climate Governance? Towards Understanding Climate Governance in a Multi-Level UK Local Government Area: A Micro-Local Case Study
by Erica Russell and Ian Christie
Sustainability 2021, 13(24), 13817; https://doi.org/10.3390/su132413817 - 14 Dec 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3255
Abstract
The crisis of climate disruption and shortcomings in top-down approaches has focused attention on the effectiveness of governance to achieve climate goals. New sub-national governance models such as business alliances, city networks and NGO coalitions have emerged; such institutional ‘re-making’ is often motivated [...] Read more.
The crisis of climate disruption and shortcomings in top-down approaches has focused attention on the effectiveness of governance to achieve climate goals. New sub-national governance models such as business alliances, city networks and NGO coalitions have emerged; such institutional ‘re-making’ is often motivated by frustration at national inaction, and by a belief thatlocal actors offer an effective ‘bottom-up’ approach. Literature on the emergence of climate-led multi-level and polycentric governance focuses primarily on cities; the role of urban-rural counties and of the micro-level of local government, and the challenges and opportunities before them, is less well studied. This paper draws on work in progress in a study exploring progress, challenges and failings in UK climate governance across multiple levels of county-based government: Surrey, an area of towns, peri-urban districts and countryside, is offered as a case study, with a focus on micro-level action in small towns and parishes. We find that despite a lack of national government orchestration or sub-regional frameworks, climate action is occurring voluntarily at all levels of governance. However, the nature of action is variable and irregular and there is little evidence as yet to demonstrate effectiveness. A fragmented form of multi-level governance is observed, with limited upward flows of ideas and no indication of national interest in micro-local climate lessons and experience. We identify the importance of ‘wilful actors’ and the need for greater coordination, information- and knowledge-sharing networks to achieve effective institutional ‘remaking’ for climate action. Full article
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18 pages, 1068 KiB  
Article
Sanitation Upgrading as Climate Action: Lessons for Local Government from a Community Informal Settlement Project in Cape Town
by Alma Elisabeth Peirson and Gina Ziervogel
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8598; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13158598 - 2 Aug 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3229
Abstract
In light of the increasing call for climate action, there is a growing body of literature studying the ways in which informal settlements in the Global South are adapting to the impacts of climate change. In these particularly vulnerable communities where the existing [...] Read more.
In light of the increasing call for climate action, there is a growing body of literature studying the ways in which informal settlements in the Global South are adapting to the impacts of climate change. In these particularly vulnerable communities where the existing infrastructural vulnerabilities faced by residents are exacerbated by the hazards of climate change, multi-level approaches involving more inclusive forms of governance are needed for the implementation of climate action. Drawing from the case of a sanitation upgrading project in the informal settlement of Murray, located in Philippi, Cape Town, this paper adds to current understandings of multi-level rapid climate action in informal settlements by endeavouring to address two gaps in this body of literature. Firstly, this paper demonstrates a link between climate change and sanitation which has received little attention by showing that improving sanitation infrastructure makes communities more resilient to extreme weather events associated with climate change. Secondly, the paper addresses how and by whom rapid climate action can be implemented in complex socio-institutional contexts such as informal settlements where the impacts of climate change are felt particularly strongly. This paper identifies what enabled and constrained climate action in the Murray informal settlement in an attempt to provide lessons for local government from the case of the sanitation upgrading project. Bottom-up initiation of multi-level climate action is dependent on fragile partnerships which require the support and involvement of a skilled and dedicated local government. Nevertheless, co-operative and transparent engagements across levels hold the potential to contribute to transformative adaptation through the establishment of new partnerships and forms of governance which recognise community groups as legitimate stakeholders and acknowledge the importance of lived experiences and mentalities. Full article
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18 pages, 2458 KiB  
Article
Business Model Development for Temporary Home Renovation Consultancy Centres: Experiences from European Pop-Ups
by Minyoung Kwon, Erwin Mlecnik and Vincent Gruis
Sustainability 2021, 13(15), 8450; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13158450 - 28 Jul 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2413
Abstract
Local authorities (LAs) play an essential role in diffusing home energy renovation measures. However, there are rare business models developed for local authority actions. This paper aims to develop a critical review of the way that local authorities developed business models for pop-up [...] Read more.
Local authorities (LAs) play an essential role in diffusing home energy renovation measures. However, there are rare business models developed for local authority actions. This paper aims to develop a critical review of the way that local authorities developed business models for pop-up centres where consultants can encourage home energy renovation measures. From 2017 to 2021, participatory research was conducted in collaboration with seven LAs from the UK, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Although local authorities could use business model approaches for the development of pop-up home renovation consultancy centres, we noticed that LAs could not apply specific strategies to fit various customer segment groups. Therefore, a traditional business model needs to be investigated further for local authority activities. Full article
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43 pages, 9188 KiB  
Article
Causes and Consequences of Local Government Efforts to Reduce Risk and Adapt to Extreme Weather Events: Municipal Organizational Robustness
by Patricio Valdivieso, Pablo Neudorfer and Krister P. Andersson
Sustainability 2021, 13(14), 7980; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13147980 - 16 Jul 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3371
Abstract
This research article investigates the causes and consequences of municipal institutional arrangements for the provision of resilient critical infrastructure in municipalities. The study explains how the municipal organizational robustness and external institutional dynamics moderate the relation between capacities, leadership, and local government investment [...] Read more.
This research article investigates the causes and consequences of municipal institutional arrangements for the provision of resilient critical infrastructure in municipalities. The study explains how the municipal organizational robustness and external institutional dynamics moderate the relation between capacities, leadership, and local government investment decisions. We examine hypotheses on moderating effects with regression methods, using data from 345 Chilean municipalities over a nine-year period, and analyzing the evidence with support of qualitative data. Our results reveal that municipal organizational robustness—operational rules, planning, managerial flexibility and integration, and accountability—is the most quantitatively outstanding moderating factor. The evidence leads us to deduce that efforts to support local governments in the emerging policy domain of resilient critical infrastructure require special attention to the robustness of municipal institutional arrangements. The results are valid for countries where the local governments have responsibilities to fulfill and their decisions have consequences for the adaptation. Since one of the objectives of the Special Issue “Bringing Governance Back Home—Lessons for Local Government Regarding Rapid Climate Action” is to explore how action is enabled or constrained by institutional relations in which the actors are embedded, this study contributes to achieving the goal. Full article
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18 pages, 2727 KiB  
Article
Behind the Targets? The Case for Coherence in a Multi-Scalar Approach to Carbon Action Plans in the Transport Sector
by Greg Marsden and Jillian Anable
Sustainability 2021, 13(13), 7122; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13137122 - 25 Jun 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3278
Abstract
The Paris Agreement requires radical action across all policy sectors and at all scales of government. This paper argues that without a clear framework for sectoral budget setting which takes account of interactions across spatial scales, incoherent and inadequate policy responses will result. [...] Read more.
The Paris Agreement requires radical action across all policy sectors and at all scales of government. This paper argues that without a clear framework for sectoral budget setting which takes account of interactions across spatial scales, incoherent and inadequate policy responses will result. Using a case study of the transport sector within the UK, which has committed to a zero carbon pathway in law, we look at three key elements which have to be considered in setting out a new framework: budget coherence, accounting coherence and policy coherence. Using top-down and bottom-up examples emerging from practices today in the UK, we demonstrate that there are no ‘optimal’ solutions but a set of choices, all of which appear to be better than the patchwork of approaches emerging in the absence of a framework. A multi-scalar approach is essential as transport crosses spatial boundaries and the policy system places different levers at different scales. Transparency will be beneficial for honesty with the public and the difficult politics this rapid transition necessitates. It will also mitigate against blame shifting across governments between and within scales and the resultant inaction which characterized the previous decade of supposed ‘climate action’. Full article
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18 pages, 444 KiB  
Article
Implementing Rapid Climate Action: Learning from the ‘Practical Wisdom’ of Local Decision-Makers
by Andy Yuille, David Tyfield and Rebecca Willis
Sustainability 2021, 13(10), 5687; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13105687 - 19 May 2021
Cited by 14 | Viewed by 3824
Abstract
A global goal to limit dangerous climate change has been agreed through the 2015 Paris Accords. The scientific case for action has been accepted by nearly all governments, at national and local or state level. Yet in all legislatures, there is a gap [...] Read more.
A global goal to limit dangerous climate change has been agreed through the 2015 Paris Accords. The scientific case for action has been accepted by nearly all governments, at national and local or state level. Yet in all legislatures, there is a gap between the stated climate ambitions and the implementation of the measures necessary to achieve them. This paper examines this gap by analysing the experience of the following three UK cities: Belfast, Edinburgh, and Leeds. Researchers worked with city officials and elected representatives, using interviews and deliberative workshops to develop their shared understandings. The study finds that local actors employ different strategies to respond to the stated climate emergency, based on their innate understanding, or ‘phronetic knowledge’, of what works. It concludes that rapid climate action depends not just on the structures and mechanisms of governance, but at a deeper level, the assumptions, motivations and applied knowledge of decision-makers. Full article
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24 pages, 1248 KiB  
Article
Assessing City Governance for Low-Carbon Mobility in London
by Paul Drummond
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2480; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052480 - 25 Feb 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 3027
Abstract
City-level decisions are crucial for delivering a low carbon transition, particularly as urban population dynamics and environments change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring appropriate governance structures, mechanisms and resources to facilitate these decisions is therefore essential. Based on a systematic literature [...] Read more.
City-level decisions are crucial for delivering a low carbon transition, particularly as urban population dynamics and environments change in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensuring appropriate governance structures, mechanisms and resources to facilitate these decisions is therefore essential. Based on a systematic literature review by van der Heijden (2019), this paper develops a simple framework to assess the state of ten enabling factors for effective urban climate governance, and applies it to low-carbon passenger mobility in London. Drawing on documentary evidence and a series of semi-structured expert interviews, it finds that London’s city authorities have a strong capacity for autonomy, stakeholder participation, local leadership and coordination on climate action and mobility, of which they make extensive use. The national legal and political framework remains broadly supportive following the UK’s departure from the EU, but multi-level co-ordination is thin, and funding issues have intensified conflict over political jurisdiction since the pandemic began. Spatial variation in urban form and infrastructure, coupled with dual-layer city administration, complicate the socio-political landscape and drive for climate action in mobility. Full article
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