Urban Climate Governance
This project, based in the University of Oxford's Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) and the Environmental Change Institute (ECI), argues for an expansion of the urban climate change research agenda that includes an examination of the drivers of these emerging partnerships and for theorizing the potential and emerging role of SMEs in the wider context of non-state actors. It theorizes small businesses as agents of change in the multi-level governance of climate change, and cities as niche spaces in which sustainable development paths might be explored. Using the cases of Metro Vancouver, Canada, and London, UK, the project examines the drivers of emerging partnerships between various levels of government and small businesses in the interests of climate change mitigation.
About the project
Cities are increasingly viewed as key players in responding to climate change, as they have both direct control of critical sources of emissions and are the scale at which the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change will play out. While large industrial emitters are already required to report on their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in many parts of the developed world, the invisible majority of commercial emitters are small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) for which legislated GHG reductions are unlikely, at least for now. Novel partnerships and networks are emerging, however, which align the goals of SMEs, municipal governments and regional authorities in support of GHG management in cities.
Theoretical perspectives and research questions
Theoretical perspectives and research questions
The project uses the theoretical lenses of multi-level governance, socio-technical transitions, and corporate sustainability and sustainability entrepreneurship to help elucidate the core questions of interest in a research agenda focusing on public/private sector partnerships as a mode of climate change governance. Rooted in an understanding of multi-level governance, and the role of non-state actors (such as municipal governments and the private sector) in climate change action, this new research agenda may facilitate a greater understanding of socio-technical transitions toward resilient, low-carbon development pathways in cities. It is asking the following questions:
• What are the political and legislative triggers of these emerging private/public sector partnerships?
• How can these arrangements help to manage or alter institutional path dependence in cities?
• What is the long-term potential for ongoing partnerships, entrepreneurship in support of greenhouse gas management, and ultimately the mitigation of climate change?
• How do these partnerships and networks extend vertically into national and international networks?
• How feasible might it be for this model to extend beyond mitigation to climate change adaptation and sustainability more broadly?
• What is the applicability of this case study, and the emerging governance strategies it embodies, to other cities and regions?
Impact summary and deliverables
The project will have both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, it will contribute to our understanding of institutional change in cities, especially in the context of partnerships between multiple levels of government and various sectors of the economy. It will help to elaborate upon the challenges of institutional path dependency, as it relates to climate change policy development, and bring the private sector into discussions of climate change governance. In a practical sense, this project may help both Metro Vancouver and London to critically assess their desired roles as capacity-builders, and give a more in-depth analysis of the success of this pilot than would otherwise be available.
A logical next step following the execution of this project is to build case studies in other regions elsewhere in the world. Are similar linkages between the private and public sectors occurring in the context of climate change mitigation in emerging economies? Might arrangements such as this be useful to address climate change adaptation, or the broader challenge of sustainability? A follow-on project could serve as a starting point from which to address these critical questions.
Specific deliverables include
Workshop inJuly 2011 in Vancouver to present our results to leading researchers, as well as municipal and business actors
Publications in progress
Burch, S. and H. Schroeder (--), “Harnessing the power of the invisible majority: The emerging role of small- and medium-sized businesses in urban greenhouse gas management”, in review
Burch, S., H. Schroeder, S. Rayner and J. Wilson (--), “Novel Multi-sector Networks and Entrepreneurship: The role of small businesses in the multi-level governance of climate change in Metro Vancouver”, in preparation
Schroeder, H., S. Burch, S. Rayner and J. Wilson (--), “Small Businesses and Climate Change: A Study of Entrepreneurial Governance in London”, in preparation
Burch S., H. Schroeder and S. Rayner (--), Comparison of the two case studies
Schroeder. H., S. Burch and S. Rayner (--), Special Issue on Novel Multi-sector Networks and Entrepreneurship in Urban Climate Governance, Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy
About the research team
Principal Investigators: Heike Schroeder (Senior Lecturer, University of East Anglis), Sarah Burch (Research Associate, University of British Columbia), and Steve Rayner (Director, Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, Said Business School).
Heike Schroeder is a Senior Lecturer in the School of International Development, University of East Anglia. She was previously an Oxford Martin Senior Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford. She is also coordinator of the governance theme in the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and a member of the Scientific Steering Committee of the Earth System Governance Project (ESGP) under the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). Her research interests include multilevel governance and institutions, the international climate change negotiations, climate change governance in cities and forest governance.
Sarah Burch is a Research Associate at the University of British Columbia. She was previously a Visiting Research Associate at the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute. She focuses on urban climate change governance, with an emphasis on integrated approaches to sustainability. Sarah's work investigates: institutional and behavioural barriers to climate change policy in cities; synergies and tradeoffs between climate change adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development; and partnerships between the public and private sectors in response to climate change.
Steve Rayner is Director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society (InSIS) at the Saïd Business School of the University of Oxford, from where he also directs the Oxford Programme on the Future of Cities. He is also a Professorial Fellow of Keble College, Oxford and Honorary Professor of Climate Change and Society at the University of Copenhagen.
John Robinson (Professor, University of British Columbia)
Nick Eyre (Jackson Senior Research Fellow, Environmental Change Institute and Oriel College)
Ann Dale (Professor, School of Environment and Sustainability, Royal Roads University)
Michele Betsill (Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Colorado)
Nola-Kate Seymoar (President and CEO, Sustainable Cities)