Interpreting And Implementing Climate Protection Locally

Each of the local authorities discussed above has, to some degree, made a rhetorical commitment to addressing climate change. However, moving from political rhetoric to policy action has not been straightforward. In this section we analyze how climate change considerations have been integrated into policy principles and practice in the areas of planning, transport, and energy management, and assess the opportunities and constraints that local governments have encountered in addressing these issues. While in most cases the need to protect the climate has entered into policy discourse, there is little evidence to suggest that this discourse is being institutionalized within the practices of decision making or changing the nature of urban development.


The impact of the form and design of urban areas on energy use has attracted sustained attention over the past decade (Banister, Watson, & Wood, 1997; Breheny, 1996; Capello et al., 1999; Carmona, 2001; Jenks et al., 1996; Owens, 1992). The argument is made that land-use planning, with its influence on both the location and density of development, as well as the design of neighborhoods and individual dwellings, plays a significant role in achieving sustainable development, and in particular reducing the energy use of new developments. While it is clearly simplistic to assume that the location, density, and design of development alone can reduce energy use in urban areas, the way in which developments are designed and planned will have a significant impact on future emissions of greenhouse gases.

In three of the case studies, Newcastle (UK), Newcastle (NSW), and Milwaukee, we examined how the land-use planning system had engaged with the issue of climate protection. In each case, the importance of planning as a means for addressing urban sustainability was recognized in policy documents and by policy makers. In Newcastle (UK) and Newcastle (NSW), the impact of planning decisions on local emissions of greenhouse gases was explicitly considered. Moreover, in all three cases, the use of the rhetoric of "urban sustainability,'' the "urban renaissance," or "new urbanism''3 in policy making suggests that urban density should be increased, developments should be planned for multiple use, and the need to travel should be reduced. Nonetheless, the links to climate protection remained implicit.

The fact that local land-use planning policy reflects concern about urban sustainability and climate protection is due to a different combination of factors in each case, though none is directly attributable to the CCP program. In Newcastle (UK), planning officials had an interest in the issue of energy use in the urban environment and sought funding from the European Commission to undertake a study on the potential for the city to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases. Subsequently, policies to improve the energy efficiency of new housing, reduce the need to travel, and promote renewable energy were integrated into strategic planning policy. Bringing national planning policy guidance into line with principles of urban sustainability and the urban renaissance in turn reinforced previous local commitments and prompted a renewed interest in inner-city (re)de-velopment within the city. In Milwaukee, the promotion of new urbanism owes much to the interests of Mayor John Norquist and his appointed officials, who viewed planning as a key means of regeneration. In Newcastle (NSW), the commitment of the council to pursue energy conservation has begun to diffuse into the area of land-use planning through the inclusion of new urbanist principles in planning strategies and energy efficiency requirements in development control policies. This process has been facilitated both by state legislation requiring that local authorities take the principles of sustainable development into consideration when designing their strategic plan and making development control decisions and by the NSW Sustainable Energy Development Agency's work to design-development control agreements with local house builders to improve the energy efficiency of individual dwellings. Together, these cases illustrate that the development of climate protection policies within local government is the result of different factors operating at the local, regional, and national scales concurrently.

Despite the explicit or implicit inclusion of policy principles to address emissions of greenhouse gases through land-use planning in each of these case studies, their implementation has been far from straightforward. Where local authorities own land or can exercise significant powers over its use (for example, through reclassifying zoning to require mixed-use development), policies to reduce energy use through the form or design of developments have been implemented. Likewise, if a particular development site is sought after, or if agreements have been entered into with local house builders, it has been easier to persuade developers to adopt more energy conservation measures than they would have adopted otherwise. However, such instances remain few and far between, and in the majority of developments business continues as usual.

While the principles of changing urban form in order to make development more sustainable have been accepted and, to a degree, are being implemented across the case studies, questions remain as to their impact on energy use. For example, it is often argued that reducing the "need" to travel will have the effect of reducing the "amount" of travel. Without accompanying policies to reduce the demand for car travel, land-use planning policies in isolation may not succeed (Owens, 1995; see also discussion below). In the three case studies at issue, the ability of the local authority to implement measures that explicitly target the energy consumption of individual dwellings, such as energy efficiency standards or passive solar design, remains limited. In Newcastle (UK), the local authority has provided guidance on these issues but is unable to enforce high standards through the planning system, in part because these standards are considered matters to be addressed through the national building regulations. In Milwaukee, new urbanist principles fail to include energy efficiency as a design issue. In Newcastle (NSW), success in improving the energy efficiency of new domestic buildings has recently been accomplished through negotiation with the local house builders' federation, though it remains to be seen how this commitment will take shape in practice.

In light of the CCP's focus on information and data, it is notable that, far from resting merely on a lack of information about the relevance of planning to urban energy use, the problems of acting on climate change through the land-use planning system are deep-seated, and reflect the fluid relationship between local governments, state or national governments, and other stakeholders in the development process. Planning does not provide a conduit through which pre-existing concepts are transferred from policy principles into practice, but is, rather, an arena in which the meaning of sustainability is constructed and contested (Owens & Cowell, 2002). While the principles of a new urban development agenda have been embraced in each local authority, what this means for environmental sustainability in general, and climate protection in particular, is not clear. Rather, the struggle to interpret and implement particular versions of these ideas is central to the local politics of sustainable development. In Newcastle (UK), the need to regenerate inner-city areas, promote economic regeneration, and provide additional housing has shaped the debate about urban planning and sus-tainability, so that any explicitly environmental considerations have been sidelined. Likewise, in Milwaukee, environmental concerns have been peripheral to the main aims of urban regeneration and have largely been framed in terms of local amenity.4 In Newcastle (NSW), some explicit measures to address energy use in the urban environment have been implemented, but many officials continue to advocate traditional approaches to development, such as ensuring that there are enough car parking spaces. Far from providing a blueprint for sustainable development, the integration of climate change concerns into land-use planning has brought tensions between economic, social, and environmental objectives to light.


In each of the three countries from which the case studies are drawn, the transport sector is an important and growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Technical fixes in the form of improvements to the energy efficiency of motor vehicles or the development of less carbon-intensive fuels have long been heralded as a means through which to reduce emissions from this sector. In Denver, this approach has taken shape in the Green Fleets program, a scheme to reduce energy costs associated with operating the municipal fleet5 by reducing the size of the fleet, the size of vehicles within the fleet, and the vehicle miles traveled. The program has been widely replicated by other cities in the CCP network. However, it is increasingly recognized that such measures, by themselves, will be inadequate and that reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases from this sector will depend on an absolute reduction, or at least containment, of the number and length of car journeys (Potter, Enoch, & Fergusson, 2001; RCEP (Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution), 2000) - in short, the introduction of demand management measures.

In three of our case studies - Cambridgeshire, Denver, and Newcastle (NSW) - we examined the development of climate protection policies in the transport sector. In each case, to at least some degree, the principle of transport demand management as a necessary means for addressing urban sustainable development has entered into the policy arena. In Denver, this debate is largely confined to the city's own employees, for whom a bus pass program has been introduced, though the city also lobbies for increased provision of public transport in the metropolitan area. In Newcastle (NSW), emphasis is also placed on the need to create a modal shift away from the car to alternative forms of transport, through providing public transport and information about it to the community. In Cambridgeshire, debates about demand management have been the most extensive, and have focused on "soft" or "persuasive" measures (Marvin & Guy, 1999a), such as providing information about alternatives to the car, creating more public transport infrastructure, and integrating land-use and transport planning. In addition, elements of "hard" demand management, such as restraining access by cars to the city center, increasing parking charges, and experimenting with road-user charging, have also been included in the Council's transport policy.

The rationale for addressing the demand for car transport differs in each case. In Denver, initially it was concerns about local air quality that prompted the city to invest in alternative transport for its employees, though the greenhouse gas emissions reductions benefits have been acknowledged by calculating and including them in the city's CCP program reports. Across the metropolitan area, congestion levels are also rising, prompting investment in transport infrastructure. In Newcastle (NSW), concerns about air quality have been accompanied by realization on the part of those working on climate protection in the city that the transport sector needs to be addressed, though to date action has been limited. The introduction of state legislation, which demands that local authorities address sustainable development, and new urbanist planning principles (discussed above) may provide some impetus for action in this area in the future. In Cambridgeshire, it is argued that the economic, social, and environmental impacts of continued traffic growth need to be managed. This debate reflects increased awareness of local trends in traffic growth and congestion, as well as national concern about the impacts of car transport on economic efficiency, communities, health, and the environment. Here, climate change has explicitly been recognized locally and nationally as an issue that transport policy should address. From these case studies, we can see that arguments for demand management stem from policy development at different, interacting, scales of governance. In Newcastle (NSW), state policies promoting the integration of land-use and transport planning have been significant, and in Cambridgeshire, the influence of national policy development is also evident.

In practice, the impact of demand management measures on emissions of greenhouse gases in each of these case studies has been minimal. In Denver and Newcastle (NSW), this is partly a function of the limited extent to which such measures have been put in place, but also, as in Cambridgeshire, reflects issues concerning the influence, resources, and powers of local authorities in this sector; conflicts over how demand management should be interpreted; and a continuing belief in the necessary connection between economic development and traffic growth. In each of the cities, emphasis has been placed on the need to improve alternative forms of transport provision, particularly public transport.

In each case, the extent to which the local authority can affect the provision of public transport is limited. In Denver and Newcastle (NSW)

regional authorities and in Cambridgeshire private companies supply public transport. In this context, the role of the local authority becomes one of lobbying for better provision, creating transport infrastructure, such as bus lanes, for the supply of more public transport, and informing the public about, and persuading them to use, these services. Although other forms of soft and persuasive demand management have been experimented with in each of these local authorities, such as developing commuter transport plans and "safer routes to school,'' the focus remains on the provision of infrastructure for, and information about, alternative modes of transport. In Cambridgeshire, this focus is a reflection of traditional approaches to transport provision (Marvin & Guy, 1999b), a policy climate in which the benefits of particular schemes have to be accounted for in concrete terms, and financing arrangements that favor capital projects over support for non-capital schemes. Whether or not such measures can, by themselves, bring about a reduction or containment of car traffic growth is a moot point. For example, in Cambridgeshire, the development of Park and Ride has increased the number of people coming into the city center by bus, but has not led to a reduction in car traffic across the city center, and despite provision of public transport facilities in Denver and Newcastle (NSW), fewer than 5% of journeys in either city are made by public transport.

Despite the possible limitations of soft and persuasive demand management in isolation, hard demand management measures have not been vigorously pursued. In Denver and Newcastle (NSW), proposals to restrict car access to the city, or to increase the costs of driving in order to provide an incentive for using alternatives, have not been made. In Cambridgeshire, various forms of hard demand management have been applied to the city of Cambridge, including a scheme that restricts access to the city center and increasing parking charges, primarily as a revenue raising exercise to fund the alternatives discussed above. More radical versions, in which workplace parking levies or road-user charges are implemented by local authorities, have been sanctioned by central government. However, the political and pragmatic difficulties associated with such schemes have meant that they remain on the backburner.

In each of the case studies, engagement with demand management has not led to the abandonment of plans to increase road capacity. Rather than being seen as an alternative to increasing provision for traffic growth, demand management measures are seen as an additional strategy for increasing the capacity for travel within urban areas (Bulkeley & Rayner, 2003). This suggests that, far from questioning the legitimacy of continued traffic growth in the face of its economic, social, and environmental impacts, the assumption is still made that traffic growth is a necessary part of economic growth, and that to reduce the former is to challenge the latter. If, as we argued above, reducing local emissions of greenhouse gases from the transport sector demands reductions, or at least containment, of the number and length of car journeys, these findings raise serious doubts about the extent to which climate protection is being advanced through local transport policy, and therefore the possibilities of reaching national objectives and international targets in the long term.

Energy Management

Outside the land-use planning and transport sectors, local authorities have a significant role to play in managing energy in the built environment, both in the housing sector and within their own buildings and operations. While land-use planning and regulation can affect the energy efficiency of new developments and buildings, additional measures, which local governments can influence or introduce, are required to improve the existing housing stock. Furthermore, some local authorities own large quantities of housing stock and/or office space in which they can take measures to improve energy efficiency. In this section, we compare the experiences of Leicester, Denver, and Newcastle (NSW) in addressing these issues, turning first to measures to manage energy use in the housing sector.

In Leicester, initiatives for energy management within the housing sector date back to the 1970s, and have been manifest in various experiments with energy supply, such as combined heat and power and solar energy projects, as well as in programs to improve the energy efficiency of housing and to encourage individuals to take energy conservation measures within the home. Concern among council members and officers about fuel poverty6 and the environmental impacts of energy use, the establishment of an energy advice center and an energy agency within the local authority, access to additional funding, and the introduction by central government of the "Home Energy Conservation Act'' have all been important factors in developing energy policy and measures within the housing sector. Likewise in Newcastle (NSW), the formation of an energy management agency within local government (the Australian Municipal Energy Improvement Facility) and access to additional funding through the CCP-Australia program have been central to the recent development of community initiatives. Such initiatives included an energy town meeting during which 900 participants developed strategies for the council, community energy workshops to provide information about actions the public could take to reduce energy and water use, and the Greenhouse Action Partnership undertaken with local businesses.

The dependence of these initiatives on additional funding creates its own problems. First, such funding tends to be focused on innovation, which means that there is little money available for the continued support of (successful) projects. Second, the competitive nature of such funding means that as some local authorities gain, others will miss out (Guy & Shove, 2000; Jones & Leach, 2000). In Leicester, the focus of energy efficiency policy in the housing sector has been on improving the structure of existing buildings on the basis of additional funds, and on providing individuals with information about measures they could implement to conserve energy. Such an approach clearly reflects the limited capacities for local authorities in the UK to directly influence domestic energy use.7 It is not clear whether such initiatives, which focus on technical fixes and individual action, will be effective in delivering substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This is implicitly acknowledged in Leicester's Energy Sense program, which tries to address the social and institutional contexts of energy use by offering householders a comprehensive approach to planning and installing energy efficiency measures, with some success. In Newcastle (NSW), community initiatives for energy management are at an embryonic stage, and it remains to be seen how they will take shape. In Denver, explicit action on energy management in the community has not been undertaken for fear of opposition from the state government, which has explicitly banned the use of state funds for implementation of climate protection policies and programs, and from the coal industry.

In contrast, in each of the local authorities, significant progress has been made in reducing the use of energy within the council's own operations and buildings. In Leicester, Denver, and Newcastle (NSW), similar initiatives have been undertaken, including improving the energy efficiency of buildings and office equipment, educating staff about the use of energy and other resources, purchasing renewable energy, and cosponsoring renewable energy demonstration projects. In each case, the initial rationale for action was based on the potential monetary savings, and the interests of particular individuals within the local authority. The implementation of energy efficiency measures has been facilitated in each case by innovative financial mechanisms allowing a proportion of the monetary savings accrued to be reinvested in further initiatives. In this endeavor, each of the local authorities has benefited from rigorous means of accounting for energy savings and reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases, though it has only been in Denver that the CCP software has been used for this purpose.

However, there are also factors specific to each case that have promoted the in-house conservation of energy. In Denver, the local government has benefited from the mandatory financial contribution made by the local utility company to energy conservation measures, and from energy efficiency programs organized by the US Environment Protection Agency. In Newcastle (NSW), energy utilities have played a significant role by promoting the development of renewable energy projects after changes to energy legislation in NSW that require such companies to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases. Newcastle's leading role in CCP-Australia, and its demonstrated success in delivering reductions in energy use and financial savings, have also lent the energy agenda and those supporting it political credibility within the local authority. In Leicester, an energy management department, energy advice center, and energy agency have been created through funding from external bodies, including the Energy Savings Trust and the European Commission. Energy management has also been encouraged by recent shifts in local government in the UK, as it fits with the ethos of modernizing local government and with approaches to sustainability that stress the need to articulate indicators and measure progress against them.

Each of the local authorities has found its ability to act in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from within its own operations and buildings constrained. This is perhaps most acute in Leicester, where changes to local government financing and structure in the UK have meant that the managers of individual services, such as schools and hospitals, run their own budgets. At this scale, the financial gains of implementing energy efficiency measures are significantly reduced, and the costs of coordination and implementation increased. At the same time, the cost of energy has fallen substantially, and monetary savings can more easily be gained by shopping around between suppliers than by reducing energy use. This points to a flaw in the strategic approach adopted in each of these cases, and advocated by the CCP program; the message is that in-house energy reductions will have financial gains. While this is intuitively sensible and desirable, problems arise if the return periods for gains are defined in the short term, or if energy prices fall, so that measures that will have significant benefits in terms of climate protection but have high up-front costs are not considered. There is the danger that, once the "easy fruit'' has been picked, in-house energy management will be abandoned if its other goals are not made explicit and supported. Furthermore, whatever their size, local authorities face the challenge that their own use of energy is relatively minimal and that in order to be effective in terms of climate protection, they need to influence energy use across the community, where the approaches that have so far been taken

- focusing on modeling and accounting for energy - may not be as easy to pursue or as successful. Local governments may need to search for alternative approaches to energy conservation and urban sustainability in order to reduce local emissions of greenhouse gases across the community.

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