The need for cooperation between the different levels of governance, and in particular the integration of the potential of action by cities and regions, is now widely recognised as a necessary effort to reach the objectives of the Paris Agreement and to make its implementation credible. This was the main message of the International Conference on Climate Action (ICCA) in May 2019 in Heidelberg, which the Director of the World Resources Institute (WRI) summarised as follow: “harnessing the full power of towns and cities to drive the shift to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future requires action at all levels of government, with strong supportive policy frameworks, incentives systems and financial resources for sustainable infrastructure”. National States recognised at various occasions the need to strengthen the capacities for climate action of local and subnational authorities and to cooperate further with them. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) clearly identified multilevel governance as a lever to achieve the Paris Agreement’s objectives: “Strengthening the capacities for climate action of national and sub-national authorities, civil society, the private sector, indigenous peoples and local communities can support the implementation of ambitious actions implied by limiting global warming to 1.5°C” and precise further “Cooperation on strengthened accountable multilevel governance that includes non-state actors such as industry, civil society and scientific institutions”. So does the “Paris Rulebook” – the guidelines for the implementation and monitoring of the Paris Agreement – which includes (amongst other things) guidance on inclusions in Nationally Determined Contributions(NDCs) and “reaffirms the key role of a broad range of stakeholders, including regions, cities, the private sector, intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, decision makers, scientists, youth, women and indigenous peoples”.
The greater attention given to the specific role of local authorities in the issue of climate change has been motivated by various arguments along the past decades: better suited and more agile than central governments to address sustainability challenges (air quality, local development, etc.) they are all confronted to; their capacity to innovate and experiment policies and tailored strategies; the failure of intergovernmental cooperation and the Conference Of Parties (COP) process, etc. Other benefits of municipal action include short decision-making pathways, good knowledge of the local situation, and proximity to citizens and to visible results. According to the Coalition for Urban Transitions, local governments in the world have in average direct power over less than one third of the emissions reduction potential in their cities. National and state governments have control over a further one third. More than one third relies therefore on different levels of government to work together to cut emissions, making the future of cities a vital collaborative effort.
The way in which this cooperation between local, subnational and national governments is achieved differs greatly from country to country and depends on the institutional history of each country and the historical relationships between these different levels. The question of financial means, the technical expertise held by local governments, of course, greatly determines the possibilities. In this section, Climate Chance therefore analyses the issues related to a better integration of local, subnational and national climate planning processes, and highlights relevant experiences.
A multilevel governance is a complex cooperation system between actors at all levels of government with several dimensions, that shapes the decision-making process. We will mainly focus on the reciprocal integration between local, subnational and national levels but other dimensions of cooperation ensure an effective multilevel governance such as:
• the ability of local governments to work together or cooperate transnationally or “horizontally”. This is particularly the role of the initiatives and networks described and analysed in the report on Local Climate Action 2021.
• the capacity to integrate citizens as well as private and local actors in the formulation of public policy, but also in its implementation and monitoring. Indeed, local authorities have often limited resources and are dependent on support from other governmental levels, but also “international funding, civil society engagement and private corporations that all operate in the multi-level governance system”.
The dimension we are interested in sometimes referred as “vertical integration” that can be defined as “the efforts of coordination and reciprocal consideration of climate policies by the different levels of administrative governance of a country, in order to jointly develop, implement or monitor a climate mitigation or adaptation strategy”.
In a more recent report, the same author organisation defines the principle of Collaborative Climate Action (CCA) as a “politically intended, well-organised cooperation across different levels of government to achieve defined climate targets, ideally through joint action”. By well organised, it also means a cooperation able to prevent contradictory measures.
There is an undoubtable growing acceptance that cities and territories are an unavoidable level of action for both the formulation and implementation of national mitigation and adaptation policies, but thinking their cooperation beyond the mere top-down approach or each level respective approach, and identify better the resources and capacities of each authorities, has additional benefits.
Through the existing literature we can identify a series of objectives and gains, of which the most commonly posted are:
• greater efficiency in the local implementation of national or regional climate programmes; • preventing contradictory measures and thus support coherence between policy and municipal action;
• a catalytic effect on the will and action of regional and local governments, eased by a stronger ownership;
• avoiding policy gaps between the different levels of climate planning;
• a better allocation of human and financial resources between different levels;
• the sharing of information and experience between different levels of governance.
Experiences and possibilities for integration are different according to the institutional, national, and even regional contexts. However, still based on this literature, we identified three main characteristics that can be used to assess the cooperation between levels of authorities.
A “top-down” approach with the integration of national climate strategy by local and subnational levels through the adoption of common objectives, or the implementation and adaptation to local context of priorities, policies, tools. A “bottom-up” approach with the integration of local and subnational policies into national strategies, by encapsulating the diversity of local characteristics that could be put to good use with adapted tools and policies.
Local and subnational governments are more likely to be integrated by National States as actors in the implementation of national objectives, as a vehicle at local level for national and often sectoral orientations. Consultation with local and sub-national governments – and through them the actors in their territories – during the design of national climate policies is progressing. However, little experience shows that their implementation and impacts are really taken into account in order to contribute to national policy cycles, their evaluation and their renewal and adjustment.
This is the objective of initiatives such as the Climate Action Aggregation Tool (CAAT). This online tool distils the step-by-step process laid out in the ICAT Non-State and Subnational Action Guide and was developed to support government experts, analysts and policymakers to identify, quantify and aggregate the impact of non-state and subnational actions. As a result, they can be integrated into mitigation targets, projections, and scenarios in support of policy development, policy evaluation and target-setting. Specifically, the Climate Action Aggregation Tool(CAAT) enables users to (1) better quantify the impact of region, city, and business emissions reduction efforts, (2) evaluate how they overlap with or complement national policies, and (3) determine the impact of combined national and subnational efforts for integration into more holistic target-setting.
Vertical integration can be facilitated at different stages in the implementation of a climate policy:
• Formulation: the most observed form of integration, consisting in adopting similar climate objectives and priorities, given by the higher administrative level.
• Implementation: some policies can benefit from a common implementation between different levels to preserve coherence in the territory. This is for example the case for mobility programmes and transport-related infrastructures, since the inhabitants cross several communities daily. Cooperation is also needed to use respective competencies.
Monitoring-evaluation: integrating the monitoring evaluation process (M&E) of local policies at intermediate and national levels allows a more accurate vision of the progress and difficulties of implementation by local and regional authorities, a vision often weakened at the national level. It also strengthens the coherence of measurement and accounting tools, as for now most cities and regions use different reporting systems from those used by national governments , or from one local government to another.
National governments can create favourable conditions for local and subnational climate change mitigation through reporting systems, awarding environmental labels, certificates and prizes, or increasing municipal incomes that can be used for climate change measures as well as the coordination and cooperation among local authorities. The national legal, technical, and financial national frameworks greatly influence first the level of integration of local climate action into the national strategy, and secondly the level of articulation between local, subnational, and national climate planning processes. In parallel, the competences devolved to local and subnational authorities may also differ greatly from one country to another and can hamper cross-level interactions.
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