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Toward Global Urban Climate Mitigation: Linking National and Polycentric Systems of Environmental Change

May 3, 2022

CSSN Scholar Benjamin Leffel conducted a study that explores how polycentric systems of normative expertise and political-economic forces have contributed to the reduction in urban greenhouse gas emissions globally.


Most research on global environmental change focuses on the national level, but the increasingly significant role of cities worldwide in climate change governance necessitates a global-scale understanding of urban environmental change. This study explains how greenhouse gas emissions reduction in 330 cities across 48 countries is affected by diffusion of normative expertise and political-economic forces. Specifically, polycentric systems comprised of environmental management consultancies and environmental transnational municipal networks facilitate expertise transmission to cities, facilitating urban emissions reduction. This expertise is diffused globally in a normative process explicable by world society theory, but these polycentric systems bypass national governments in a direct global-to-local transmission of expertise. These findings advance world society theory beyond its traditional nation-state-centric purview by showing that new polycentric systems can also affect subnational environmental policy outcomes, linking micro-level and macro-level processes in global environmental change.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/ leolintang