Moving Beyond the Impasse
Edited by James Meadowcroft, Oluf Langhelle and Audun Ruud
Chapter 6: ‘Think globally, act locally!’ But what on earth can local governments do about global climate change?
Assessing the pros and cons of taking climate action presents local decision-makers with a political dilemma. To take the slogan ‘think globally, act locally!’ seriously implies that although the effects of climate change are globally shared, ‘the physical scale of the human impact on the non-human natural world has reached a point where not just local or regional, but truly global ecological processes are being effected’ (Meadowcroft 2002, p. 176). If this is seen as postulating that an effective climate strategy must simultaneously address the individual and global scales together, local actors should never forget that economic and social activities within their cities and municipalities do contribute to climate change far beyond their local jurisdictions. But at the same time as these activities are necessary for developing and sustaining local welfare, the specific contribution–and thus responsibility–of one local community to global climate change may remain unclear to its decision-makers. In a pessimistic scenario this could lead to an impasse. When local climate action is seen as jeopardizing local economic and social development, local governments may resort to minimalist modes of governing climate change and may even opt for a free ride on the issue of climate change. In an optimistic scenario the competition among local governments to mobilize resources may lead some to view actions on climate change as an opportunity to enhance local identity and thus, in the long run, to attract and develop new resources (see Zannakis 2010; Schreurs 2008; ICLEI 2010).
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