Over the last decade, the role of cities in climate governance has gained increased attention in both political and academic debates. While being largely responsible for increased levels of pollution worldwide, cities also possess a range of policy instruments which may help implement effective practices and strategies aimed at improving air quality, energy saving, waste recycling, etc. This is crucial for achieving climate mitigation and adaptation goals in a global perspective.
In addition to providing an overview of the different forms of cities involvement in global climate governance, the course reflects on the factors that can enhance or hamper cities’ capacity to develop innovative and experimental actions for climate at both local and international levels. More specifically, the first part of the course focuses on the supranational settings which have contributed to empowering cities’ action at the global level, such as, for example, transnational city networks (ICLEI, C40) and international initiatives (EU Covenant of Mayors). After having presented the mission and the functions of these networks, an analysis of relational dynamics within a selected number of networks will be presented (i.e. the type of partnership, the thematic focus and the network functions). The second part of the course will examine a few individual city strategies for climate, reflecting on cities’ potential as agents of change in global climate governance. The analysis will address institutional and political dynamics, including local politics, the relations with the upper territorial levels (regional, national, supranational), potentially competing interests of the different local actors, and the channels of civil society mobilization. Also, a range of policy instruments which city governments may deploy in their climate policies (i.e. economic incentives, regulations, information campaigns) will be illustrated in a comparative perspective. The closing part of the course will include three discussion sessions for which the course instructor will provide a list of additional topics and readings.
Week by week syllabus
Week 1 The global politics of decarbonization and the role of local authorities (Reading 1)
Week 2 Transnational city networks: urban empowerment and global climate governance (Reading 2)
Week 3 Enabling urban climate strategies: the experience of the European Union (Reading 3)
Week 4 Experimental governance architectures for climate in the EU (Reading 4)
Week 5 Learning within climate networks (Reading 5)
Week 6 Local climate strategies: drivers and barriers (Reading 6)
Week 7 Local climate strategies: costs, benefits and trade-offs (Reading 7)
Week 8 Local climate strategies and processes: the political determinants of climate action at the local level (Reading 8)
Week 9 Understanding the role of cities in global climate governance: analytical perspectives and open questions (Reading 9)
Week 10 Discussion session 1
Week 11 Discussion session 2
Week 12 Discussion session 3
Upon completion of the course, the students will be able to:
- understand global climate governance dynamics
- identify the most relevant political actors of climate governance at the different territorial levels
- be able critically analyse institutional and relational dynamics within and across governance networks
- apply the theoretical knowledge acquired during the course to the analysis of existing global city networks and individual local climate strategies
Teaching and evaluation methods
This course combines frontal lectures with interactive class activities. A number of discussion sessions will be organised during the course in order to stimulate learning by allowing students to formulate and exchange their views on selected issues. Detailed instructions and readings for these sessions will be provided by the instructor.
The final evaluation of the course will be based on the group assignment within the discussion session activities (40%) and the final individual written exam (60%).
1) Bernstein, S., Matthew Hofmann, M. (2018). The politics of decarbonization and the catalytic impact of subnational climate experiments. Policy Sciences, 51, 189–211.
2) Broto, V.C. (2017). Urban Governance and the Politics of Climate change. World Development, 93, pp. 1–15.
3) Domorenok, E., Acconcia, G., Bendlin, L., & Campillo X.L. (2020). Experiments in EU Climate Governance: The Unfulfilled Potential of the Covenant of Mayors. Global Environmental Politics, 20(4), 122–142.
4) Kern, K. (2019) Cities as leaders in EU multilevel climate governance: embedded upscaling of local experiments in Europe, Environmental Politics, 28:1, 125-145.
5) Haupt, W., Chelleri, L., van Herk, S. & Zevenbergen, C. (2020). City-to-city learning within climate city networks: definition, significance, and challenges from a global perspective. International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development, 12:2, 143-159.
6) Reckien, D., Johannes Flacke, J., Marta Olazabal, M. & Heidrich, O. (2015). The Influence of Drivers and Barriers on Urban Adaptation and Mitigation Plans—An Empirical Analysis of European Cities. PLoS ONE 10(8).
7) Berrueta, C.S., van der Heijden, J. (2021). Trading off benefits and requirements: How do city networks attract cities to their voluntary environmental programmes? Environmental Policy and Governance, 31(5), 451–462.
8) Van der Hejden, J. (2019). Studying urban climate governance: Where to begin, what to look for, and how to make a meaningful contribution to scholarship and practice. Earth System Governance, 9, 100110.
9) Rilling, B., Tosun, J. (2021). Policy and political consequences of mandatory climate impact assessments: an explorative study of German cities and municipalities. Policy & Society, 40 (1), 99–115.
Last updated: 17 January, 2023