A Tale of Three Cities : a comparative analysis of climate policy formulation in Swedish municipalities

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: The adage “think global, act local” can be a fitting description of how to address climate change. Municipalities are often responsible for implementing the measures required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and shift to a more climate-neutral development trajectory. However, there is a vast spectrum of municipal ambition regarding climate, and not all municipalities manage to have robust and ambitious climate policies. Sweden is a country that both has ambitious climate goals and affords a high amount of autonomy to local-level governing bodies. This thesis investigates how municipalities in Skåne, Sweden develop policies to address climate change, with a focus on how they approach the national “reduced climate impact” environmental quality objective. It seeks to unveil the conditions that enable ambitious climate policy at the municipal level by comparing Hässleholm, Vellinge, and Kristianstad, which exhibit many similar characteristics but have varying levels of climate policy success – which I define as having in place an ambitious and robust program to reduce climate impact. The theory of governmentality provides a lens through which to analyze my results. Via a coding process, I categorize the results for each case into the three components of governmentality: problematization, regimes, and endpoint. I look for similarities and differences across cases that could correspond with the municipalities’ levels of success, paying particular attention to characteristics that are present in Vellinge and Kristianstad but absent in Hässleholm. I then synthesize these findings and present them in their order of significance in determining climate policy success. This research suggests that the features most influential in enabling ambitious climate policy are driven individuals, a clear organizational structure, a strategic approach, and having clear political motivations such as a vision or reputational ambitions. A sense of municipal responsibility to address climate change and maintaining harmonized, up-to-date policy documents also have a notable influence. Public awareness of climate change impacts, membership of trans-municipal networks, and a desire for economic benefits associated with climate action seem to play a minor role in shaping municipal climate governance. Climate awareness amongst companies and being a signatory of a voluntary initiative to eliminate fossil fuels do not seem to impact climate policy success. This study contributes to sustainability science by offering insights on policymaking that could enhance coordination between multiple stakeholders and levels of governance as they seek practical solutions to the complex challenge of climate change.

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