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Strong local government moving to the market?: The case of low carbon futures in the city of Örebro, Sweden
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Political, Historical, Religious and Cultural Studies (from 2013). Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Centre for Climate and Safety (from 2013).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5356-4112
2018 (English)In: Rethinking Urban Transitions: Politics in the Low Carbon City / [ed] Andrés Luque-Ayala, Simon Marvin and Harriet Bulkeley, Taylor & Francis, 2018, p. 129-145Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Policy and practice at the local level is central in relating global standards and knowledge, national and regional climate change scenarios and policy decisions into particular climate action in a specific context (Bulkeley and Betsill, 2003; Elander et al., 2003; Lundqvist and Biel, 2007; Storbjörk, 2007; Storbjörk, 2010; Castán Broto and Bulkeley, 2012; van den Berg and Coenen, 2012; Romero-Lankao, 2012; Bulkeley et al., 2015). This means that cities, and their local governments, are central to understanding the implementation of international agreements (regimes), national and regional climate change policy. It needs to be stressed, however, that local governments are not just implementers of policy decision taken at higher levels of government. Local governments can, and perhaps have to, be forerunners in climate change policy and practice, as the sources and impacts of climate change are always local, national policy and international negotiations are not always successful, and national governments are not necessarily taking the lead (Gore and Robinson, 2009; Bulkeley et al., 2015; Bulkeley and Betsill, 2003). Local government action on climate change takes place in a specific local setting. It also takes place in a policy environment characterized by cross-cutting issues and cross pressure from government actors on international, national and regional levels, unfolding public sector reform, continuous policy development, and demands from businesses and citizens (Granberg et al., 2016). Accordingly, why and how cities act on climate change challenges is by no means a straightforward matter (Bulkeley et al., 2015) but, certainly, one that warrants critical research. This chapter focuses on local government low carbon action within the field of alternative energy production, zooming in on the organizational modes and on intermediary functions and actors in efforts aiming at low carbon transitions (cf. Bulkeley and Betsill, 2013; Hodson et al., 2013). In the Swedish context, low carbon transitions are of course connected to the ecological need to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, mitigating future risks and impacts. But they are also increasingly connected to the more economic arguments connected to the concept of a carbon or fossil bubble (Schoenmaker et al., 2015; Rubin, 2015). That is, the idea that any investments made in fossil fuel-based companies are investments that will add to GHC emissions and, perhaps even more important from this perspective, fail to produce any long-term economic profits. According to this perspective, all viable investments need to be directed towards no-carbon solutions, businesses and markets or there will be serious negative economic impacts when the carbon bubble eventually bursts. The central questions of this chapter are how capacity-building for low carbon transitions evolves at the interface between state and market and what specific role local governments take in this interface. As already indicated above, this perspective is guided by the concept of intermediation through institutional experimentation (cf. Luque-Ayala et al., Chapter 2, this volume; also, Hodson and Marvin, 2009, 2012; Hodson et al., 2013). Intermediaries here are defined as entities that connect, translate and facilitate flows between different parties. The focus of the chapter is, more precisely, on systemic intermediation on a network level involving more than two parties (Hodson and Marvin, 2009). The intermediary role can be divided into facilitating, configuring and brokering (Stewart and Hyysalo, 2008). Accordingly, the aim of this chapter is to study local government efforts to build low carbon capacity by describing, critically examining and analysing local government climate action. In the case studied here, we can see the local government organization intermediating indirectly by trying to facilitate flows of both experience and capital between public and private actors but also directly as a market actor through a boundary hybrid organization facilitating connections between local government and market actors. A hybrid organization (cf. Koppell, 2006) is an organization that mixes value systems and logics of various spheres such as the state and the market (cf. Erlingsson et al., 2014; Montin, 2016). More precisely, the local government uses a 'green' investment fund, facilitating public-private networking and a municipal company in their efforts to advance a low carbon transition. The case studied follows the development of local government climate change action over the last decade in the Swedish city of Örebro. The city profiles itself as a forerunner in environmental issues and has formulated ambitious reduction targets. Sweden is often considered a pioneer in environmental governance (Lidskog and Elander, 2012), combining high ambitions at a national level, strong local government and robust policy guided by ecological modernization (Lundqvist, 2000; Zannakis, 2015). It has been stated that if Sweden still holds on to a leading international position in environmental governance it is probably due to activities at the local level (Granberg and Elander, 2007; Uggla and Elander, 2009; Hjerpe et al., 2014). Accordingly, Sweden provides an interesting context for studies of local government climate change action via market mechanisms, given its combination of strong local government with high (national and local) environmental ambitions. Arguably, drawing from this, if Sweden is to be perceived as a 'least likely' case for utilizing market mechanisms due to its strong and resourceful local government (cf. Flyvbjerg, 2006), then local government action in Sweden becomes a critical case worthy of critical inquiry. In the sections that follow, this chapter elaborates aspects integral to the case studied. First, it briefiy presents the Swedish local government system and its development, highlighting the presence of strong local governments and their central role in the Swedish government system. This is followed by a presentation of Swedish policy development within the fields of climate change, energy generation and GHG mitigation, again highlighting the central role given to Swedish local government. The chapter ends with a set of conclusions aimed at an integrated analysis of the Swedish government system, national policy developments and the local component of the case study showing how these three components are, in fact, one integrated multilevel case. It is clear that the local government uses a form of institutional experimentation that mixes value systems and logics of both state and market in its strive to becoming a 'climate smart' city.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2018. p. 129-145
National Category
Climate Research Ecology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-67662DOI: 10.4324/9781315164779Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85047530239ISBN: 9781351675154 ISBN: 9781138057357 OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-67662DiVA, id: diva2:1218296
Available from: 2018-06-14 Created: 2018-06-14 Last updated: 2018-07-13Bibliographically approved

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