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date: 29 September 2023

The Role of Local Governments in International Climate Policylocked

The Role of Local Governments in International Climate Policylocked

  • Vanesa Castán Broto, Vanesa Castán BrotoThe University of Sheffield
  • Linda WestmanLinda WestmanThe University of Sheffield
  •  and Xira Ruiz CampilloXira Ruiz CampilloUniversidad Complutense de Madrid Facultad de Ciencias Politicas y Sociologia


Local governments play an increasingly important role in international climate policy. Climate action follows existing trajectories of sustainable development action at the local level. The history of climate action in cities suggests a lot of potential for learning from previous sustainability experiences. Three aspects of climate change governance are important at the local level: the motivations for responding to climate change, the different responses deployed, and the city structures and networks representing cities in the global spheres.

Current interest in climate change action at the local level follows three decades of local sustainability action. Because of engagement with environmental conflicts at the local level, environmental justice activists also influenced local climate action. Cities and settlements are exciting policy arenas with great potential to enable just transitions. However, the impacts of local government’s action at both the local level and internationally are not always evident.

Cities have sought to address climate change through planning, harnessing co-benefits of climate action, and finding appropriate evaluation means. Solutions have also been developed through the insertion of cities in global circuits of knowledge production via transnational municipal networks (TMNs).

Local government action can only be explained with reference to the international climate change regime. International policy events influence local government action, and local government action influences international discourses of climate action. A range of actors, from local governments to businesses, communities, and civil society, also play a role in addressing climate change. Still, they require autonomy and the resources to deliver mitigation and adaptation actions that local governments can mediate.


  • Policy, Politics, and Governance
  • Psychology and Sociology

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