Conclusion The Local Dimension Of Global Environmental Governance

The politics of climate change is not merely a matter of international negotiation and national policy development, but is also taking place on the local scale through different policy sectors, as struggles emerge over what it should mean to act to protect the climate (Guy & Marvin, 1999). At the same time, the local politics of climate change is not confined within a discrete sphere of local governance, but occurs through vertical relations of power and governance between the subnational and national state, and through transnational networks of local government. Thus, to understand global environmental governance as either negotiated at the international level and then trickled down to other institutional arenas as responsibilities are assigned and implemented or to see local initiatives as the result of isolated actions by more ecologically rational institutions is too simplistic.

Clearly, processes at the global level are important in the governance of environmental issues, particularly in establishing common sets of norms and rules of behavior. However, by viewing the world in terms of hierarchical, territorially discrete, scales, regime theory approaches miss emerging forms of multilevel governance involving transnational networks that are simultaneously global and local, while minimizing the role of local actors in addressing global problems (Bulkeley & Betsill, 2005; Betsill & Bulkeley, in press). Local authorities, which are largely absent from explicit consideration within the regime theory framework, are assumed to act in response to directives from the central state as part of the national implementation of these international agreements.

The case studies confirm that indeed, local authorities exercise a degree of influence (with significant variation) over greenhouse gas emissions through their activities in the areas of energy, transport, and land-use planning and will thus be important actors in the implementation of national and international climate protection policies. At the same time, the cases demonstrate that the significance of cities in the governance of global climate change goes beyond their role in implementing policies established at other levels. Cities represent an important site for the governance of global issues in their own right. In the area of climate change, cities have been innovators in terms of climate protection policy and practice, often in the absence of any international or national policy requiring them to do so (here, the cases in the US and Australia are particularly illuminating). Moreover, even where attempts to address climate change are not leading to emissions reductions or an increased appreciation of the importance of the issue, this does not signal a lack of governance but rather its failure. The development of local climate change policy has not been the direct result of a linear process of international policy formulation, national policy adoption, and local implementation. Rather, the process is more chaotic, fragmented, and opportunistic, and is shaped by institutions and actors operating across different policy sectors at and between different levels of governance.

While it is clear that cities are important actors in the governance of climate change, the case studies also indicate that it would be naive to assume that climate change can be addressed entirely at the local level. Many analyses of urban sustainability, with their inward focus and optimistic assertions of the influence of local government, also miss the shifts taking place toward multilevel governance and create little opportunity for recognizing the role of international and transnational actors, let alone transnational networks of local governments, in environmental governance. Moreover, such approaches ignore the particular social, political, and economic context in which local climate protection efforts take place, which, as demonstrated above, has significant implications for the capacity of local authorities to develop and implement climate change policies. Our analysis suggests that in order to better understand global environmental governance, we will need to move beyond perspectives that focus on either ''thinking globally'' or ''thinking locally,'' and instead seek an approach that can traverse the different scales and spaces of environmental governance.

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