Governing Climate Change Post-2012: The Role of Global Cities - London

While international negotiations for a climate change policy framework post-2012 continue, there is increasing recognition that a range of activities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are taking place ‘beyond’ this formal arena. This working paper contributes to the research of the Tyndall Centre programme 1 by focusing on a group of non nation-state actors - global cities – and their role in climate governance. Cities are a critical source of man-made carbon dioxide emissions – accounting for as much as 78% by some accounts (Stern 2006) – and places where vulnerability to climate change may be acute. The project includes four case-studies: London, Los Angeles, Mexico City and Melbourne. This working paper documents the experience of London. It charts the emergence and evolution of London’s climate change policy in the period 2000 – 2008. It argues that this has been marked the development of initiatives for addressing climate change which fall into three core categories: leadership; infrastructural change; and changing practice.

Leadership has been an important means through which officials and politicians in London have been able to justify and extend their actions. Addressing issues of infrastructure provision, and in particular energy supply, has been critical in setting out the ambitious targets in both climate change policy and wider frameworks of land-use planning. Seeking to address the practices of energy use amongst domestic and commercial actors in London has been a significant means through which authorities have sought to extend their reach beyond their nominal jurisdictions for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. These three approaches have depended on a mixture of governing modes, or approaches, including traditional government functions of control and compliance (e.g. planning), providing new forms of service (e.g. energy) and enabling (e.g. partnerships). This is creating innovative responses to climate change in the city, but considerable challenges have also been encountered.

First, in terms of leadership, whether the momentum created by a particular cohort of individuals can be maintained over time, particularly in a context of party political change, is moot. Second, in terms of achieving infrastructural change, while there have been challenges in relation to the business response to this issue, this has been less confrontational than might have been expected. Instead, the major challenges have come from national level energy policy and regulation, a lack of technical expertise in planning authorities, and the novelty of the technologies themselves. Third, in seeking to change practices at the household and commercial level barriers remain in relation to the take-up and follow through of advice in individual households and companies, the skills available to embed energy efficiency technologies in the built environment, and in terms of the finances available to sustain partnership working in general and certain schemes in particular.

As regards the impacts of, and influence upon, the post-2012 international climate policy framework, three conclusions from this report are particularly salient. First, the specific details of any international agreement are of less importance than its general features. In short, for London, any agreement will be better than none. Second, any such agreement is likely to have an indirect but still significant impact on London’s climate policy, in particular because of its importance of shaping the climate policy positions of the EU and UK government, and the nature of business engagement on the issue. Third, London’s influence on the international policy framework is also indirect. Through the establishment of the C40 network, London, together with other global cities, may be affecting the tenor of domestic climate politics in several countries which will be critical to the make-up of the post-2012 policy framework. In this manner, a non (nation) state actor such as London may be significant beyond its jurisdictional realm.

Bulkeley, H., and H. Schroeder