Exploring city climate leadership in theory and practice: responding to the polycentric challenge
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionJournal of Environmental Policy and Planning. 2021, (1-14). https://doi.org/10.1080/1523908X.2021.1883425
This article has a twofold aim inspired by observed gaps in urban climate governance theory and practice. First, it explores city leadership strategies of securing a closer correspondence between climate policy goals and observed realities on the ground. Second, it presents an in-depth and nuanced theoretical understanding of urban climate leadership inspired by four bodies of public administration leadership theory, reflecting leadership as an understudied field in the urban climate governance literature. Being largely exploratory and conceptual in nature, the article aims more specifically to identify the contribution of different public leadership theories and strategies to our understanding of city climate leadership, the explanatory reach and limitations of the theories and the potential interdependency between the leadership strategies. The practice of climate leadership in the city of Oslo is used as an illustrative case. The results show that each body of theory shed light on relevant aspects of climate leadership practices in diverse institutional contexts. By applying a careful mix of these leadership strategies and instruments, city leadership adds the stringence, predictability and motivation needed for multiple public and private actors to engage collectively and bridge policy gaps. However, social, institutional and physical constraints related to the complex, polycentric character of urban climate governance represent phenomena that fall outside the scope of the leadership theories. This point to limitations in the theories’ explanatory reach that give direction to future research.