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Building Capacities for Local Climate Action in the European Union. The Implementation Experience of the ELENA Programme

European Union
Climate Change
Policy Implementation
Energy Policy
Ekaterina Domorenok
Department of Political Science, Law, and International Studies, University of Padova
Ekaterina Domorenok
Department of Political Science, Law, and International Studies, University of Padova
Ekaterina Domorenok
Department of Political Science, Law, and International Studies, University of Padova
Andrea Prontera
University of Macerata

Abstract

Over the last decade, a bourgeoning academic research has brought to light the multitude of challenges that the climate change agenda has posed in terms of policy and governance at different territorial levels. After a long-standing debate on the limits of the global climate governance established by the United Nations’ Convention on Climate Change and the subsequent governmental commitments within the system of international protocols, the attention has recently shifted to more flexible forms of multilateral and transnational action, which aim to ‘orchestrate’ nonstate actions, strategically deploying a wide range of measures to steer nonstate and subnational initiatives towards public goals and to assist them in addressing the complex problems of mitigation and adaptation. Establishing learning and capacity building processes has been considered crucial for the success of such comprehensive coordination efforts. This paper analyses the case of the ‘European Local Energy Assistance’ programme (ELENA) that was launched in 2009 by the European Commission as the first facility targeting local authorities with the purpose of offering project development assistance for renewable energy and energy efficiency investments, urban transport mobility and smart grids. Drawing on the literature on policy implementation and the growing scholarship on capacity-building (institutional, administrative, policy, etc.), our research scrutinises the implementation of the ELENA programme across the EU, testing a number of hypotheses about the factors that have determined its impact in terms of more general demand for assistance on the part of local authorities, as well as its relevance for policy and governance innovations developed by the programme beneficiaries. Our preliminary conclusions show that the meso and micro-level variables (e.g. territorial networking and local administrative capabilities) have been as much important as the macro-level variables (i.e. domestic climate policy and budgetary constraints) in shaping the implementation trajectory of the ELENA programme.