Date of Graduation

5-2019

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Dynamics (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

Fiona Davidson

Committee Member

George Sabo III

Second Committee Member

Edward C. Holland

Third Committee Member

Brinck Kerr III

Keywords

Climate Change Governance, Climate Change Mitigation, Climate Change Policy, Geographic Scale, Politics of Scale

Abstract

When it became evident that the issue of climate change needed to be acted upon, it was projected as a global scale problem. To make this rhetoric concrete, the international relations logic that ‘regimes’ of cooperating nation-states are the most feasible approach to solving problems that are global in nature was adopted. While the national level has performed poorly in climate change mitigation action, as exemplified by the United States’ refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Canada’s subsequent withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011 after initial ratification and, more recently, the United States withdrawal from the Paris Accord, a reconfiguration of the scalar context of climate change governance to the local scale has become more popular. The major sources and sinks of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) are deemed to be at the local scale; hence, it is considered as the most suitable spatial unit for climate mitigation action. However, for local climate action to replace aggressive national level actions in fulfillment of the commitments to the ‘regime’ of cooperating national governments, the number of local climate policy innovation, and depth and efficacy of individual local actions must be substantial. In fulfillment of its first core empirical objective, the study combined critical policy theory, qualitative interviews and Geographic Information Systems, to examine the innovation of local climate action plans in the United States. Relying on the policy documents, the web-pages and progress reports of localities’ climate action efforts, and in-depth interviews with climate protection managers of 21 and five local governments in the United States and Germany respectively, the second empirical exercise examined the efficacy of local climate efforts quantitatively, in terms of their Greenhouse Gas emissions reduction targets, and qualitatively, in terms of the challenges and opportunities in their efforts.

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