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Key points from "Structure, agency and local climate governance: how do individual actors exploit local contexts to shape policymaking in smaller cities and towns?" article.

It was brilliant to sit down and speak with Dr Peter Eckersley who is an Associate Professor in Public Policy and Management at Nottingham Business School. His research focuses on central-local government relations, public policy, climate change, sustainability and public accountability. Peter is also Managing Editor of Local Government Studies and Co-Convenor of the UK Political Studies Association's Specialist Group on Local Politics.

Alongside his post at NBS, Peter also works part-time at the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space in Erkner (near Berlin), where he studies climate policy in German cities.

Today we explored Peter’s article on “Structure, Agency, and Local Climate Governance: How Do Individual Actors Exploit Local Contexts to Shape Policymaking in Smaller Cities and Towns?” he co-produced with Wolfgang Haupt and Leonie Lauga.

In this the authors explore the interplay between structural conditions and individual agency in local climate policymaking. This can be applied by local government to policy making around climate but is also much more broadly linked to policy development across local government.

Here are the key points:

  1. Structural Conditions and Climate Action:

  • Previous studies emphasize that structural factors significantly influence local climate policy. Factors such as population size, wealth, education levels, civil society engagement, and political dynamics impact a city’s ambition in climate mitigation and adaptation.

  • Larger, wealthier cities with active civil society organizations and green parties tend to be climate “forerunners,” while smaller municipalities with older populations and weaker civil society engagement may lag behind in climate action.

  1. Role of Agency:

  • The article highlights the role of individual agency in shaping climate-related policies. Despite challenging local conditions, active individuals within municipal administrations can drive ambitious climate policy.

  • These “unusual suspects” or “ordinary cities” demonstrate that agency matters, even in less favorable contexts.

  1. Framing Policies for Local Support:

  • The study draws on fieldwork in 11 German towns to show how municipal managers frame climate policies. Their framing strategies aim to gain local support for climate action.

  • Socio-economic, demographic, and political conditions influence these framings, but individual agency remains crucial.

  1. Two-Dimensional Framework:

  • The authors propose a two-dimensional framework for future research on structure and agency in local governance.

  • They caution that studying this interplay can be challenging but essential for understanding effective policymaking.

In summary, while structural conditions set the stage, individual actors play a vital role in shaping climate policies at the local level.

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