Local government action on climate change mitigation
The report on the municipal action on climate change mitigation was strongly supported by the research done by Matias Garcia within the BEACON project, who dedicated his master dissertation to better understand how Municipalities could support the global efforts on keeping global warming below 1.5ºC. He considered the European municipality reality and reviewed the wide list of potential actions and monitoring indicators that municipalities could pursue in order to ground CC mitigation at the local level.
Climate Change within the Sustainable Development Goals
Regarding the co-relation of multiple Sustainable Development (SD) areas, climate action is integrated as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is represented by Goal 13 . Climate-related frameworks, such as the Paris Agreement, also mention the importance of considering SD and environmental integrity as ways for achieving their proposed objectives .
Climate change mitigation (CCM) and SD are mediums for tackling major global transversal issues. They are different concepts with several points in common and the same final objective, enabling sustainable life on earth. Consequently, multiple benefits arising from CCM policies, when properly designed, may also support SD. [16, p. 116] Conversely, possible SD trade-offs may arise when tackling CCM. Nonetheless, they can be avoided with the adoption of complementary policies [16, p. 63] aimed at the many facets of SD, such as those that aim to reduce GHG emissions with an inclusive resilience perspective that leaves no one behind [16, p. 5,116]. As shown in Figure 14, the IPCC highlights the different synergies and trade-offs between CCM and the SDGs [1, p. 22]. For example, concerns about the interaction between the water cycle and land use should be approached carefully to avoid trade-offs [1, p. 22].
In conclusion, pursuing SD and combating climate change are related endeavors [16, p. 116]. This relation should be exploited to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of CCM action.
Climate Change mitigation
The European Union (EU) established three main objectives in its climate and energy framework for the period 2020–2030: reduce GHG emissions from 1990 levels by 20% and 40% by 2020 and 2030, respectively, improve energy efficiency by 32.5%, and increase the total renewable energy (RE) share to 32% . These last two objectives have been updated since the release of the framework in 2014 , whereby they have become more ambitiousness, perhaps because the EU had already foreseen in 2014 that the objective of improving energy efficiency would not be reached [26, pp. 8–9]. The EU has also released the European Green Deal Communication in 2019,  which is a roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 , . Nevertheless, the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) categorizes EU NDCs as insufficient for accomplishing the goal of limiting global warming below 2ºC, as of July, 2020 (Figure 2) . For that reason, under the Talanoa Dialogue, Paris Agreement parties shall submit their new or updated NDCs by 2020 in order to achieve the objectives .
A municipality is defined as a legally determined region with a local government administration . Although the definition may differ from country to country, all municipalities have the same purpose: local governance . Competences also differ from country to country depending on their legislation. In the context of Portuguese law, for example, municipalities are tasked with safeguarding and promoting their populations’ interests in the following sectors: rural and urban equipment, energy, transport and communications, education, heritage, culture and science, sports and leisure, health, social action, housing, civil protection, environment and basic sanitation, consumer defense, development promotion, land use and urban planning, municipal police, and external cooperation . Despite differences, EU municipalities have the same goal of reducing their GHG emissions by 40% by 2030 [52, p. 25]. In order to reduce or increase the efficiency of municipal energy fluxes, global Euro-pean organizations for municipal CCM, such as the Covenant of Mayors, have highlighted local CCM efforts in the energy sector, and now considering also crucial domains such as land-use planning, mobility and transportation, and consumption patterns [52, pp. 13–14] The Covenant of Mayors expects local authorities to play an exemplary role by taking outstanding measures related to their own context . Thus, the Covenant is also enhancing the importance of stakeholder engagement, where communication is fundamental [52, p. 44]. In analyzing specific European projects fostering municipal CCM, the BEACON project has suggested the following categories of focus for participant municipalities: governance, power and heating and cooling, transport, urban planning, communication and sensibilization, natural resources, consumption patterns, and waste management .
Localizing Climate Change mitigation - the role of Municipalities
The local perspective and contextualization of CCM and SD actions could be crucial for ensuring appropriate measures are taken in each context, where potential co-benefits are enabled and possible trade-offs are reduced. Despite the importance of general, top-down guidelines, different authors and organizations have defended the importance of bottom-up approaches in ensuring the effectiveness of actions taken for local communities. Castán Broto (2017) claims that “cities are so different, so contingent, that it does not make sense to build cities on a common global objective or shared recipes for best practice.” In terms of the governance perspective, Broto (2017) suggests “invest[ing] in recognizing the local history, the way social and material relations have been produced, and the trajectories that shape people’s lives as essential components of any process of urban governance, including climate change mitigation.” Governance is not the only important dimension that requires contextualization regarding effective CCM measures. Spatial planning processes, energy production, transportation and mobility, and land use are examples of relevant dimensions where contextualization is needed to ensure the effectiveness of CCM , .
Learning from past experiences, UN-Habitat has cited local action as a key for achieving the 2030 Agenda, including CCM [40, p. 7]. The UN has noticed that progress was more robust when governments addressed the processes inclusively, translating and adapting the global sustainability agenda into concrete and relevant initiatives at the local level [36, Ch. 3.1]. The UN affirms that localizing allows this agenda to be better adapted to local circumstances and helps reduce the inequality seen in implementing SD [36, p. 53]. The UN concluded that subnational governments bridge the gap between central government and communities and that they should play a strong role in fostering the involvement of civil society, organizations, the private sector (micro, small, and medium enterprises), academia, and other community-led initiatives in SD actions [40, p. 7]. With the aim of amplifying the voices of local and regional actors and increasing joint-advocacy work relating to SDG implementation, climate change, and the urban agenda, UN-Habitat created the global task force of local and regional governments in 2013 . UN-Habitat is not the only organization that supports local CCM and SD endeavors. Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) is another example of a global network that creates connections among local, regional, national, and global governments to incorporate sustainability into day-to-day operations . They influence sustainability policy and drive local action toward low-emission, nature-based, equitable, resilient, and circular development .
In the European context, the Covenant of Mayors is the relevant organization for enhancing local climate change action. This covenant has brought together thousands of local governments voluntarily committed to implementing EU climate and energy objectives since 2008 . Its aim is to introduce a bottom-up approach for multi-level cooperation and to create a context framework for action . As the EU dictates, within the EU countries, municipalities need to reduce their emissions by 40% by 2030 . Country policies started to be developed. For instance, Portugal has integrated the EU Climate and Energy framework into their Energy and Climate Energy National Plan (PNEC) . Despite the implemented emission-reduction measures at the national level, few are adapted to local contexts. The PNEC enhances the important role of municipalities with respect to climate action, enhancing their contribution in terms of awareness-raising campaigns . However, they do not describe concrete measures to be adopted by the municipalities other than the obligation to elaborate local energy and/or mobility plans .
With the aim of supporting local climate action, the Bridging European and Local Climate Action (BEACON) Project, tries to fulfil the gap between the different levels of governance, supporting municipal actors, policy makers, and educators in developing, refining, and implementing measures for reducing GHG through joint learning, networking, and developing tailored advisory services . Working with participants from Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Greece, Poland, Portugal, and Germany, this project also aims to connect the different local actors participating and to disseminate good local-level practices for CCM .
A bit about BEACON project
- targeting the restoring of social and ecological qualities
- operating at a the local or regional scale (small-scale and place-based)
Potential Actions of European Municipalities by Domains
Global trendiest sources of GHG emissions by sector
Globally, the increase in anthropogenic GHG emissions between 2000 and 2010 were directly produced by the following sectors: energy (47%), industry (30%), transport (11%), and construction (3%) [59, p. 46]. The agricultural, forest, and other land use sector (AFOLU) has not increased its impact during this period, but it is an important contributor to GHG emissions: in 2010, it was responsible for 24% of net emissions [59, p. 46]. The IPCC has also stated that the following are key drivers of CCM: consumption and behavioral changes, production and trade patterns, waste, infrastructure choices and their related lock-in effects, among others [16, Ch. 5]. As noted, every municipality has its own challenges and context. Nonetheless, the global drivers of GHG emissions result from the sum of local parts. For instance, the sustainable energy action plan of the municipality of Setúbal, Portugal identified their three most problematic GHG emission sectors, ranked as follows: production and transportation of energy, industry, and transportation. These sectors are also the most problematic at the global level, as noted by the IPCC .
Proposed recommendations for local climate change mitigation by domain
Below, there are listed a series of actions for different domains that European Municipalities could implement based on an extensive literature review on the potential climate change mitigation at the local level (ref Matias thesis).
Governance refers to a process of setting, applying, and enforcing rules by both governmental and non-governmental actors in a network setting . Within the context of climate action at the local level, the capacity for governance is highly related to the effectiveness of climate policy [16, p. 41]. As the IPCC has remarked, CCM is a technically feasible exercise, but institutional arrangements, governance mechanisms, and financial resources must be aligned with the goal of reducing GHG emissions [16, p. 92].
Each locality has its own characteristics (different size, national legislation, and international networks) . Thus, each of them has their own way of proceeding with climate action. Nevertheless, their approach to governing and their internal aspects as they relate to achieving mitigation goals. Starting with governance style, Boehnke et al. (2019)  denote four types of local governing styles for climate action: governing by authority, self-governing, governing by provision, and governing by enabling . A study of 627 climate experiments in 100 global cities by Broto and Bulkeley  affirms the prevalence of the provision style, which enhances the importance of the “governing by enabling” mode as a complement to achieving the desired climate action . As Boehnke et al. explain, governing by provision entails that the municipality is the provider of sustainable services (water, electricity, public housing, transport, etc.) . In the case of governing by enabling, Boehnke et al. state that the role of the municipality is as a facilitator that implements subsidies and loan schemes, distributes information, coordinates climate action among actors, and establishes public-private partnerships . The author of this research assumes that the city-level focus of Boehnke et al. (2019) and Broto and Bulkeley (2013) could be replicable at the municipal level.
Analyzing the importance of the public-private partnerships, as mentioned by Boehnke et al. , local authorities could integrate local stakeholder into their CCM processes. Establishing stakeholder partnerships could be seen as a way to distribute responsibilities that seeks cooperation on municipal-level climate action. Although evidence is limited, case-study results indicate that engaging institutions in stakeholder engagement is important to successfully implement mitigation policies [16, p. 1184]. Partnerships are important for local government because they extend the operation of the state through other actors . For example, the IPCC remarks the institutions’ responsibilities on stakeholder engagement, via creating spaces for stakeholder participation, considering the organizational resources of the stakeholders them-selves and the general policy environment [16, p. 1184]. Given the complexity of climate change, the range of stakeholders is immense . The author of this research suggests classifying local stakeholders into the following groups: business and industry (private sector), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and non-profit associations, and civil society and other related public institutions. For example, NGOs could have an important role in connecting “knowledge with responsibility” and promoting norms of accountability [16, p. 1184], which would help ensure successful CCM policies. Some of the major roles of NGOs might include raising public awareness, lobbying, influencing investment deci-sions, and monitoring and implementing agreements [16, p. 1184]. Collaboration among municipalities, regional agencies and other public institutions may also be necessary for successful CCM. For example, the Covenant of Mayors suggests presenting joint SECAPs among municipalities in case a municipality faces a lack of human and financial resources required to achieve covenant-related commitments on its own . The author acknowledges that the acceptance of civil society is also needed for successful climate action. Citizens’ assemblies are an example of civil society engagement that leads to more inclusive, co-designed, and collaborative governance . In the right context, citizens’ assemblies can facilitate societal buy-in with respect to policy decisions, thereby increasing the legitimacy of decisions .
In terms of institutional policies and instruments, the IPCC classifies them by economic instruments (taxes, subsidies, subsidy removals, and emissions trading schemes), regulatory approaches (rules and objectives with penalties in cases of non-compliance), information policies (good information quality is essential to raise public awareness and concern about climate change, to identify environmental challenges, to better design of environmental policies, to monitor their impacts, and to provide relevant information to inform consumption and production decisions), government provisions of public goods and services and procurement, and voluntary actions (actions taken beyond regulatory requirements) [16, p. 94]. As local governments’ authority differs from country to country, some instruments are not suitable for every municipality. Thus, the author focuses on three instruments that may be universally accessible and encourages the use of regulatory and economic policies when possible. In terms of voluntary actions, as an example, the author highlights the importance of engaging the Covenant of Mayors initiative by local authorities not only for the support and guidelines that this initiative provides for climate action but also for the opportunity to publicize municipal climate actions . Integrating the Covenant of Mayors also requires the creation of a baseline emissions inventory that contributes to municipal information policies by providing information about the current emissions situation of the municipality. This information can enable appropriate, effective, and targeted measures in the sectors contributing the most to GHG emissions .
Municipal-owned and managed services could be essential in provisioning sustainable services. The author uses the term (re)municipalization in reference to the process of bringing previously private or privatized services under local public control and management, including services that have always been in private hands or services that previously did not exist . The Transnational Institute collected 835 cases of (re)municipalization across 45 countries. The institute defends publicly managed services be-cause these services generally focus more on quality, are universally accessible and affordable, and deliver on broader social and environmental objectives [66, p. 158]. Thus, (re)municipalization could be the key to achieving local CCM goals depending on the local conditions and the different motivations for (re)municipalizing [66, p. 161], . This fact is particularly obvious in the energy sector, where new local public companies and co-operatives have been pioneering an energy transition based in renewables, but also in other sectors such as transportation and waste management. As an example, it is nearly impossible for a private waste company to engage in a genuine “zero-waste” policy because their whole business model is predicated on maximizing volumes of collected waste [66, p. 162].
The internal organization of the municipality plays a key role in fostering local climate action. Effective climate policy involves building institutions and capacity for governance [16, p. 41]. Most climate policies intersect with other societal goals, either positively or negatively [16, p. 39]. Due to the multidisciplinary character of CCM, fostering internal collaboration, cooperation, and information sharing among local administrative divisions could play an important role in enhancing potential policy co-benefits and reducing the risk of adverse side effects [16, p. 40]. For example, in the Syros Workshop of the BEACON project “Engaging with colleagues for ambitious climate action,” 27 participants of local administrations from Germany, Greece, and Portugal discussed which internal structures are necessary to implement successful, ambitious climate action . In their report, they identified three internal structuring options: a centralized climate structure (climate unit), a decentralized climate structure (expert team), and a decentralized expert team led by one coordinator (hybrid). The author recommends the hybrid structure because of the advantages of having a decentralized expert team lead by a coordinator. The increased need of human resources embedded in the hybrid structure may not feasible for every municipality. Nonetheless, the final aim is the cooperation between departments to not only avoid potential double efforts but also to share relevant information for developing appropriate climate action plans.
In relation to cooperation-based internal structures, the IPCC highlights the importance of capacity building and institutional education for CCM. Decision makers often have insufficient or imperfect knowledge about climate risks. This knowledge deficit could be addressed through better data communication and public education [16, p. 160]. Understanding climate change is crucial for mitigating it. Several articles from UNFCCC acknowledge the role of capacity building in promoting collective action on climate change [16, Ch. 13]. The author of this research extrapolates this knowledge to local institutions.
|Table 2 – Recommendations for local climate change mitigation (CCM) related to the governance domain. Governance-related Recommendations||SDG Targets|
|A - Provisioning Sustainable Services/Green Public Procurement||13.2 & 17.14|
|B - Promote Information Policies||13.2 & 17.14|
|C - Undertake Voluntary Actions||13.2 & 17.14|
|D - (Re)municipalize Local Services to Foster Institutional Capacity for Climate Change Mitigation||13.2 & 17.14|
|E - Establish Stakeholder Partnerships||17.16 & 17.17|
|F - Rearrange the Internal Structure of the Local Administration||17.16 & 17.17|
|G - Capacity Building for Local Administration Climate Action||13.3|
In Table 2, Matias and colleagues (ref) suggests recommendations for municipalities to pursue local CCM linked to appropriate SDG targets.
When connecting the proposed recommendations to the SDG targets resulted the Goal 13 (Climate action) and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the goals). The same authors acknowledge that the targets proposed in Goal 13 could be modified from a national context to a municipal context and, regarding the Goal 17, that CCM is a medium for pursuing SD, thus, acknowledging partnerships for the goals, partnerships for CCM.
Education and communication
Human values and behavior may result from multiple factors such as, for example, cultural, religious, and other beliefs systems [16, p. 299]. Despite their complexity, substantial changes in human values in the long term and inducing behavioral changes in the short term could be important for CCM [16, p. 300]. However, the link between values and ecologically conscious behavior is often vague because of the wide range of factors involved [16, p. 300]. Nonetheless, these values and behavioral changes could be induced through learning and socialization [16, p. 299]. Thus, education and communication could be crucial in fostering CCM at the local level, and local administrations could take the lead on the matters.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization defines education for sustainable development (ESD) as the education that empowers learners to make informed, responsible decisions for environmental integrity, economic viability, and a just society for present and future generations, while also respecting cultural diversity. Education for sustainable development is about lifelong learning and is an integral part of quality education. It is also holistic and transformational education that ad-dresses learning content and outcomes, pedagogy, and the learning environment. It achieves its purpose by transforming society . Education for climate action could empower learners to make informed decisions about CCM and thereby transforming society.
The IPCC states that the aim of an educational program in CCM and climate change adaptation is to represent a collective global problem as individual and collective knowledge and experiences [16, p. 256]. Such an education program would require strategies for disseminating scientific information and would have to advertise practical implications in ways that are understandable to diverse populations [16, p. 256]. For example, institutions could promote strategies for education or communication to different target groups (scholars and non-scholars).
Some European municipalities have noticed the importance of schools in promoting personal values and inducing behavioral changes aligned with climate goals and actions. Supported by different projects, such as BEACON  or Three for Climate , municipalities from Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria are closely collaborating with some of their local schools to raise awareness about the climate change challenge.
As a complement to education, communication can also induce behavioral changes. Municipalities may have an important role in communicating local information related to climate action (information policies) and also through non-commercial advertising campaigns. Advertising is used to shape consumer purchasing behavior . Local authorities may use a similar strategy to induce behavioral changes in support of climate action. However, it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of advertising campaigns , . Nonetheless, some progress has been made in the field of neuroscience. Harris et al. (2019) showed that action- and emotion-based marketing communications that ask individuals to “act,” “share,” “pledge,” or “challenge” are more effective than predominantly rational-based appeals for inducing changes in decision making . 29
Following from the above, the author suggests recommendations for municipalities to pursue CCM and links them to appropriate SDG targets (see Table 3).
|Table 3 – Recommendations for local climate change mitigation (CCM) related to the education and communica-tion domain. Education- and Communication-Related Recommendations||SDG Targets|
|Education||A.1 - Promote climate change education in schools and other educational institutions
A.2 - Promote climate change education for citizens not currently enrolled in an education
|4.7 & 13.3|
|Communication||B.1 - Dissemination of general information on climate change and local environmental conditions
B.2 - Dissemination of information on actions taken by the municipality to mitigate climate change
B.3 - Invest in non-commercial advertising campaigns to increase citizen awareness about the climate change crisis and regenerative responses
The education and communication dimension transverses every other domain, where specific communication strategies are crucial for achieving the proposed measures. For instance, communications campaigns intending to induce a reduction in consumerist behavior is related to the consumption patterns dimension; specific training such as eco-driving courses is related to the transportation and mobility dimension.
When connecting the proposed recommendations to the current SDG targets resulted the Goal 13 (Climate action) and Goal 4 (Quality education), acknowledging in that case, ESD as education for CCM.
Table 4 presents the author’s recommendations related to land use for municipalities’ local CCM activities and links these activities to appropriate SDG targets. 33
- 11.7 & 15.9
|Table 4 – Recommendations for local climate change mitigation (CCM) related to the land-use domain. Land-Use-related Recommendations||SDG Targets|
|General||A - Promote Sustainable Land Management||15.1, 15.5 & 15.9|
|Sustainable Food Production||B.1 - Promote organic farming systems||2.4|
|B.2 - Increase urban and peri-urban organic food production|
|B.3 - Promote an improved capacity for local organic food production with special attention to indigenous knowledge/local knowledge|
|Sustainable Forest Management||C.1 - Increase municipal forest areas||15.2 & 15.b|
|C.2 - Reduce forest loss and degradation caused by forestry activity|
|C.3 - Avoid conversion from forest land to other land use, particularly from switching into cropland or monocultures|
|C.4 - Implement operational and effective wildfires management|
|Soil Carbon Sequestration||D - Increase Soil Carbon Sequestration by Increasing Soil Fertility and Groundwater Infiltration||6.6 & 15.3|
|Green Urban Infrastructure||E - Increase Green Urban Spaces and Infrastructure, Paying Special Attention to Local Biodiversity|
Transportation and mobility
Potential Municipal Monitoring Indicators by Domains
Monitoring was highlighted as important for achieving SD and therefore CCM [36, Ch. 2]. In addressing the CCM challenge, efficiency and effectiveness are crucial and require measuring climate impacts and identifying priorities for reducing carbon. These come along with an appropriate planning and monitor-ing system . The UN suggests implementing a solid, efficient, inclusive, and transparent reporting and follow-up system at every level in order to better achieve climate- and sustainability-related goals [36, Ch. 2].
Regarding the local context, Boehnke et al. (2019) mentioned deficiencies in both data collection and action planning, which have led to inadequate practices . The IPCC has also noted that municipalities often highlight progress on the implementation of mitigation projects, but the impacts of these initiatives are not often evaluated [16, p. 974].
The monitoring process seems to not be a priority, especially at the local level. As claimed in the last Global Environmental Outlook of the United Nations Environmental Program, the current monitoring process is severely inadequate and significant improvement is needed to be more effective in the decision-making process and to increase the credibility of local actors [47, Ch. 6]. The UN has already prepared indicators for monitoring the SDGs’ implementation, with every goal and target having at least one associated indicator . Unfortunately, few of these indicators could be addressed to the subnational level , where it seems to be more complicated to find a single recipe that suits every local context. Despite the challenge of localizing, different organizations are committed to strengthening local capacity building and local monitoring processes. For example, UN-Habitat created the City Profiling Tool, which introduces different indicators for climate action in cities to facilitate city resilience assessments by local governments . Local Governments for Sustainability has developed the global protocol for community-scale greenhouse gas emission inventories (GPC), which follows the guidelines of the IPCC and aims to support the implementation of local emissions’ inventories . The Covenant of Mayors also created general guidelines for municipalities to prepare a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP), which includes in general terms how to develop the monitoring aspects associated with the designed plan . In their guidelines called “How to develop a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan,” the Covenant of Mayors indicates that municipalities should identify data and indicators to monitor progress and results of each action undertaken [52, p. 56].
With all this available information, some municipalities have begun integrating climate action and the SDGs into their local agendas, including monitoring processes. This is the case of the Cascais municipality in Portugal. They have started to localize the SDGs by trying to integrate indicators for each goal, including climate action . Unfortunately, as they affirm, their local adaptation of the SDGs into the municipal agenda is just an experimental process where the indicators, good practices, and the index used are indicative and do not accurately represent the reality of the municipality .
There is no concrete guidance to follow from municipalities with respect to SD monitoring within their territories. With this in mind, research projects were initiated in Portugal to facilitate this process. For example, the Center of Opinion and Polling Studies (CESOP) of the Catholic University in Lisbon, Portugal started developing indices to assess local sustainability in 2018 . They are trying to adapt global SDG indicators to the local level by localizing the data that is already available at the Portuguese National Statistical Institute (INE) and PORDATA and by proposing new indicators when relevant data is unprocessed . Another example of a local monitoring initiative is the ODSLocal project, an online tool that allows for the monitoring, visualization, and communication of municipal progress towards implementing the SDGs . This website, developed by 2adapt, was launched on November 12th, 2020 .
Spaces for and of...
- Democratic political practice
- Environmentally and socially destructive economic systems are inherently connected with centralised and inequitable political systems capable of co-option by those who already hold wealth and power. Moving towards sustainability and social justice requires more inclusive and democratic forms of decision-making and allocation of rights over shared resources. Approaches to inclusive governance already in use by many communities of place and/or practice provide potential models for a wider democratisation of society.