Climate for Change? Integrating Climate Change into Cities' PLanning Practices

Project Details


Cities rather than national governments take the lead in acting on climate change. Sev- eral cities have voluntarily created climate change plans to prevent and prepare for the effects of climate change. In the literature climate change has been examined as a multi- level governance area taking place around international networks. Despite the many initiatives taken by cities, existing research shows that the implementation of climate change actions is lacking. The reasons for this scarcity in practice are limited to general explanations in the literature, and studies focused on explaining the constraints on cli- mate change planning at the local level are absent. To understand these constraints, this PhD thesis investigates the institutional dynamics that influence the process of the in- tegration of climate change into planning practices at the local level in Denmark. The examination of integration is twofold: the integration of climate change into existing plans and processes, and the integration of climate change plans as a new planning area into city administrations. There is thus a focus on plan content and plan process. The thesis is positioned within the philosophy of critical realism and to investigate the insti- tutional dynamics new institutional theory is used with an emphasis on examining insti- tutional mechanisms in relation to building legitimacy for action. The concept of mech- anisms can help explain how and why constraints on action occur, and the concept of legitimacy is useful to clarify the strategies used by officials to enable climate change action. A long running criticism of institutional theory is the emphasis on how institu- tions constrain actions rather than act as productive phenomena that facilitate action. Emergent strands within new institutional theory emphasise the role of agency in insti- tutional change. The thesis contributes to this scholarly debate through conceptual and empirical discussions about structure and agency in relation to institutional mechanisms and legitimacy. Based on mainly qualitative studies of planning documents and process- es in city governments in Denmark, the thesis’ results are presented in five journal arti- cles. The articles’ areas of investigation take as their point of departure three planning areas that serve as planning tools for climate change integration: climate change plan- ning, municipal spatial planning and strategic environmental assessment (SEA). The thesis concludes that the characteristics of climate change governance are shaped locally through normative and cultural-cognitive mechanisms and strategies for building legit- imacy in the integration process. Integration across sectoral departments in the city ad- ministration is found to be constrained by existing structures which officials have to navigate to create legitimacy for climate actions. The potential for using existing plan- ning tools for climate change integration has not been fully exploited, and climate change planning is instead perceived as an explorative area, where institutional entre- preneurs create windows for action through the establishment of local networks. The thesis contributes knowledge on the constraints of the internal integration process in city governments. It provides explanations of why these constraints occur, and how officials seek to overcome them. The thesis provides explanations of the emergence of local networks between city governments and local businesses and it contributes a local perspective to the research area of climate change as a multilevel governance issue.
AcronymPhD Thesis
Effective start/end date02/11/200915/01/2013