The ‘Patchwork’ Art of Urban Governance on Climate Change

Thursday, May 3, 2012

BC signatories to the Climate Action Charter, and other municipalities interested in reducing greenhouse gas emissions,  now have a significant resource for considering types of approaches and strategies to use. The UN-HABITAT recently released a report, Cities and Climate Change: Global Report on Human Settlements, identifying four types of strategic approaches taken by municipalities to apply climate change mitigation efforts. The four types of approaches identified include: 1) self-governing; 2) provision; 3) regulation; and 4) enabling approaches. These approaches are generally found as a ‘patchwork’ at the local scale, given the cross-cutting nature of climate change and the need for interdepartmental measures, and are contributing to leadership on climate change in the face of stalled international action.

The four approaches are available to many municipalities. Self-governing approaches tend to emphasize internal operations such as management of fleets and buildings, procurement of low carbon options for energy and transport, and aiming to generate ‘best practices’ in these areas. Provision approaches, where integrated infrastructure and service decisions account for long-term energy, water, and waste and overall carbon footprint reductions in the built environment, are particularly successful in cities where municipalities retain ownership and/or control of infrastructure networks (e.g. developed country cities). Using enabling approaches, municipalities strengthen community initiatives that reduce greenhouse gases among local actors. This is done through education, incentives, and various partnerships. Municipalities also have opportunities to utilize regulation, which is effective but underutilized, to reduce emissions through the use of taxation and user fees, land-use planning for mixed-used and density, and the setting of codes and standards, such as building codes. The report highlights the mechanisms and strategies used by municipalities leading on climate change mitigation and is therefore a great resource to all communities interested in taking emissions reductions seriously.