What cities do best: Piecing together an efficient global climate governance

5pm, December 08th, 2015

This working paper, What cities do best: Piecing together an efficient global climate governance, examines the ideal role of city governments under a vertically integrated climate governance system designed to maximize urban mitigation potential.

Action by city governments is essential for achieving deep reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions. While many cities are already engaged in pioneering efforts to achieve such reductions, greater support from national governments could help realize urban mitigation potential more fully, quickly, and cost effectively. With greater policy coordination, cities could focus on roles and actions for which they are highly capable and best positioned.

The authors, from the Stockholm Environment Institute,  find that under a coordinated approach designed to achieve deep greenhouse gas emissions reductions, for roughly 20% of urban greenhouse gas emissions abatement potential, cities’ ideal role is to be policy leaders and architects. The greatest opportunities here are in the passenger transport sector, and include improved spatial planning, promotion of walking and bicycling, enhanced transit system development, and more efficient transportation management.

For another 40% of urban abatement potential, the ideal role for cities is to be critical implementers of nationally applied policies. Opportunities here are greatest in the residential and commercial buildings sectors.

For the remaining 40% of urban abatement, cities can be strategic partners, taking crucial independent actions to enhance the effectiveness of policies enacted at higher levels of government. For these diverse opportunities, cities could enhance national efforts through incentives, education, permitting, and infrastructure development. A vital role for national governments will be to help coordinate and enable effective action by cities in all of these capacities.

Read the working paper here: What cities do best: Piecing together an efficient global climate governance

Institutions Involved

  • Stockholm Environment Institute


Derik Broekhoff, Peter Erickson and Carrie M. Lee
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