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Comparative state organisation configurations for local pioneers in climate policy

Lena Bendlin
German Institute of Urban Affairs
Lena Bendlin
German Institute of Urban Affairs
Open Panel

Abstract

In the view of difficulties to forge a global climate regime, polycentric solutions and diffusion on different levels of government receive growing political attention. Scholars have identified local policy innovations as potential key drivers of actual progress in mitigation: Municipalities are relatively agile entities in comparison to countries or states and can serve as a laboratory. Cities, especially metropolitan areas, have the potential to contribute significantly to greenhouse gas emissions reductions as they are important pollution emitters but can realise economies of scale. Local pioneers develop particularly when superordinate levels do not deal with a policy problem. Within the European Union, a distinct incentive for municipalities is generated when member states do not act on policy objectives formulated at the European level. As an axample, the case study refers to the Green Paper on urban Mobility. Still, municipal activities vary considerably in coverage, scale, and effectiveness. A possible explanation lies in the very different institutional frameworks of sub-central governments in Europe as well as their respective competencies and resources. Municipalities in unitary states are likely to face more difficulties in becoming pioneers than their counterparts in federal states due to their restraint scope of action. However, the actual room for manoeuvre varies depending on the precise organisation of sub-central government. The case study therefore compares climate change mitigation policies of Berlin, London and Paris, three metropolises from different institutional frameworks. Germany as a federal state can be expected to offer favourable conditions for a pioneer to rise. Unitary state organisation in France and Britain could constrain the innovative potential of their municipalities. However, the tradition of sub-central government in both countries differs significantly and has experienced different reforms during the last decades.