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Transnational Networks and Global Environmental Governance: The Cities for Climate Protection Program

Michele M. Betsill, Harriet Bulkeley
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0020-8833.2004.00310.x 471-493 First published online: 1 June 2004


The past decade has witnessed a growing interest among scholars of international relations, and global environmental governance in particular, in the role of transnational networks within the international arena. While the existence and potential significance of such networks has been documented, many questions concerning the nature of governance conducted by such networks and their impact remain. We contribute to these debates by examining how such networks are created and maintained and the extent to which they can foster policy learning and change. We focus on the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) program, a network of some 550 local governments concerned with promoting local initiatives for the mitigation of climate change. It is frequently asserted that the importance of such networks lies in their ability to exchange knowledge and information, and to forge norms about the nature and terms of particular issues. However, we find that those local governments most effectively engaged with the network are mobilized more by the financial and political resources it offers, and the legitimacy conferred to particular norms about climate protection, than by access to information. Moreover, processes of policy learning within the CCP program take place in discursive struggles as different actors seek legitimacy for their interpretations of what local climate protection policies should mean. In conclusion, we reflect upon the implications of these findings for understanding the role of transnational networks in global environmental governance.

The past decade has witnessed a growing interest among scholars of international relations, and global environmental governance in particular, in the role of transnational networks within the international arena (Risse-Kappen, 1995; Lipschutz, 1996; Wapner, 1996; Keck and Sikkink, 1998; Risse, Ropp, and Sikkink, 1999; Newell, 2000). While the existence and potential significance of such networks has been documented, many questions concerning, for example, the nature of governance conducted by such networks and their impact within distinct policy arenas at different scales, remain. In this article we seek to contribute to these debates by examining how such networks are created and maintained and the extent to which they can foster policy learning and change. We focus on the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) program, a network of some 550 local governments concerned with promoting local initiatives for the mitigation of climate change. While networks of local governments have largely been notable by their absence from discussions of transnational networks in the international relations literature, we suggest that they are a significant phenomenon in environmental politics, and have sufficient similarity to other transnational networks to illuminate the dynamics of network governance.

In the first section we review developments in international relations theory with respect to global environmental governance, and examine the emerging debates concerning transnational networks. We then introduce the CCP program as one such network. In the third section, we consider how governance takes place within the CCP program, and in particular the role of information and knowledge1 in securing and maintaining participation and in promoting policy learning and change. Here, we draw on case-studies of six local authorities who have been participants in this network: Newcastle, Cambridgeshire, and Leicester in the UK; Denver and Milwaukee in the U.S.; and Newcastle, New South Wales (NSW), Australia. These case-studies were developed during 1998–2002 through three different research projects2 and have formed the basis for an in-depth analysis of the multilevel governance of climate change (Bulkeley and Betsill, 2003). It is frequently asserted that the importance of such networks lies in their ability to provide information, create knowledge, and to forge norms about the nature and terms of particular issues. We find that those local authorities most effectively engaged with the network are mobilized as much by the financial and political resources it offers as by processes of knowledge creation and norm generation, and that access to technical and best practice information has not been a significant factor. We also argue that processes of policy learning within the CCP program are neither rational nor straightforward, and instead take place in discursive struggles as different actors seek legitimacy for their interpretations of what local climate protection policies should mean. In conclusion, we reflect upon the implications of these findings for understanding the role of transnational networks in global environmental governance.

Conceptualizing Global Environmental Governance

Despite their manifold differences, the two dominant approaches within international relations, realism and neoliberal institutionalism, share a good deal when it comes to understanding the nature of global environmental governance. First, as Paterson (2001) argues, in each case, the causes of global environmental problems are implicitly seen to lie either in the “tragedy of the commons,” in which individual actors (nation-states) pursuing their own self-interest will overuse open-access resources to the detriment of all, and/or “discrete trends,” such as population growth, consumption, and industrialization, that force states to exploit nature. Second, each assumes that global “governance” is conducted by nation-states acting within an anarchic inter-state system. For realists, attention is then directed to the ways in which power is created and used by nation-states, and the roles of hegemonic states and bargaining in promoting or preventing conflict over global environmental problems (Paterson, 1996, 2001). For the neoliberal institutionalist school, concern is focused on the potential for resolving inter-state conflict through cooperation and the establishment of institutions. From this perspective, international regimes,3 which emerge either through the initiative of a hegemon or through interest-based inter-state bargaining, are formed in a specific issue area to facilitate cooperation by providing information and reducing transaction costs (Hasenclever, Mayer, and Rittberger, 1997).

Given its focus on collective action, it is not surprising that it is the neoliberal institutionalist approach that has attracted the sustained attention of those concerned with global environmental politics. Traditionally, regime analysis has focused on the conditions under which effective regimes are created and maintained.4 Here, global environmental governance is implicitly conceptualized as a “cascade,” in which agreements forged by nation-states at the international level are passed down to be implemented through domestic processes within those states (Bulkeley and Betsill, 2003). However, the appropriateness of such approaches for understanding the governance of global environmental problems has been questioned. First, it has been argued that nation-states are not the only actors involved in the formation and maintenance of regimes. For example, the Basel Convention on trade in toxic wastes was based on work conducted by Greenpeace and the Centre for Science and the Environment, New Delhi (Wapner, 1998:285). Second, given the focus on inter-state negotiations, regime theory has traditionally neglected the pre- and post-negotiation phases of regime development, and the domestic arena. This reflects the predominant view within international relations that the state is a unitary, sovereign actor (Agnew and Corbridge, 1995:78). A third critique is that neoliberal institutionalist theories of regimes are “rationalist,” assuming that regimes are formed by states with predetermined interests shaped by material factors (e.g., wealth or military might). As Litfin (1993, 1994) argues, any approach based on rational choice assumptions that interests are easily defined is especially misleading in the environmental context, where certainty about outcomes and impacts is often limited.

In response to these critiques, some scholars have begun to emphasize the role of regimes as an arena within which states come to define their interests. According to these “knowledge-based” or “constructivist” approaches, international regimes are a means through which cognitive and normative aspects of the problem in question come to be constructed and learnt, and in turn shape the ways in which states perceive their interests (Litfin, 1994; Paterson, 1996; Hasenclever et al., 1997; Betsill, 2000; Payne, 2001). From this perspective, regime formation and maintenance is not driven by hegemonic states or predetermined interests, but arises as state and non-state actors intersubjectively develop norms and a sense of what their interests are with respect to a particular global problem (Paterson, 1996:131). Such approaches move away from traditional notions of governance as a command and control process, and focus on the roles of non-state actors, such as environmental nongovernmental organizations, business groups, and scientific communities, in shaping the interests of nation-states, structuring regime formation, and maintaining and monitoring regimes (Haas, 1990; Haas, Keohane, and Levy, 1993; Litfin, 1994; Risse-Kappen, 1995; Young, 1997b; Clark, Friedman, and Hochstetler, 1998; Elliot, 1998; Keck and Sikkink, 1998; Newell, 2000; Betsill and Corell, 2001).

Transnational Networks

Central to processes of interest and norm formation among state and non-state actors, some authors suggest, have been transnational networks of actors and institutions that operate simultaneously across multiple scales (Lipschutz and Conca, 1993; Wapner, 1996; Smith, Chatfield, and Pagnucco, 1997; Jakobsen, 2000; Newell, 2000; O'Brien et al., 2000). According to Risse-Kappen (1995:3), such networks involve “regular interaction across national boundaries when at least one actor is a non-state agent or does not operate on behalf of a national government or intergovernmental organization.” These networks, it is suggested, mobilize information, knowledge, and values with the objective being “the integration of new conceptions of … environmental phenomena into everyday worldviews and practices” of private as well as public actors (Lipschutz, 1997a:443). Within the discipline of international relations, attention has been given to at least three general types of transnational networks and their contribution to global environmental governance: epistemic communities, transnational advocacy coalitions, and global civil society.

An epistemic community has been defined as “a professional group that believes in the same cause-and-effect relationships, truth tests to assess them, and shares common values” (Haas, 1990:55). In other words, it is a network of experts who share a common understanding of the scientific and political nature of a particular problem. Epistemic communities are seen as gaining influence within international regimes by virtue of their authoritative claims to knowledge and an ability to create a scientific consensus on the issue at hand, to which policymakers turn under conditions of uncertainty (Haas, 1990:55; Paterson, 1996:136–137). As a network, epistemic communities are seen as a group of individuals who foster policy learning through the dissemination of factual, consensual knowledge. However, by separating knowledge from interests, the epistemic communities approach ignores the discursive construction of knowledge. As Litfin (1994:6) argues in the case of the international ozone negotiations, “knowledge was not simply a body of concrete and objective facts … accepted knowledge was deeply implicated in questions of framing and interpretation … related to perceived interests.” The politics of knowledge surrounding international environmental issues are obviously significant, but they include much more than the communication of salient facts.

An alternative perspective is provided by the concept of “transnational advocacy networks” (TAN). According to Keck and Sikkink (1998:2) a TAN “includes those relevant actors working internationally on an issue, who are bound together by shared values, a common discourse, and dense exchanges of information and services.” Such networks, which may consist of state and non-state actors, operate simultaneously within domestic and international political arenas and are most frequently found in issues where there are easily identified principled positions. TAN are forged when: domestic actors find their influence over nation-states blocked, and turn to international nongovernmental organizations or other nation-states for support; when policy entrepreneurs believe it to be in the best interest of their organization; or through connections established within the burgeoning number of international policy/activist arenas (Keck and Sikkink, 1998:12–16). The network consists of organizations and individuals, and is a voluntary, reciprocal, horizontal structure that is maintained through the dissemination of information and the production of shared values. As Keck and Sikkink (1998:16) suggest, since TAN “are not powerful in a traditional sense of the word, they must use the power of their information, ideas, and strategies to alter the information and value contexts within which states make policies.” Central to the influence of TAN are strategies of holding states to account for international commitments, gaining leverage over material resources through processes of sanction and shame, staging symbolic events through which the essence of a problem can be communicated, and engaging in persuasion through the provision of information and by influencing how particular problems are framed. In this regard, “[a]ctivists in networks try not only to influence policy outcomes, but to transform the terms and nature of the debate” (Keck and Sikkink, 1998:2).

Whereas the epistemic communities framework envisages networks as a conduit for information exchange, the TAN approach suggests that the politics of knowledge also involves the construction of values, and is contested as actors struggle to have their definition of the problem, and therefore what counts as legitimate knowledge, accepted. However, whether this means, as Risse and Sikkink (1999:14–15) suggest in the context of human rights, that “a mix of instrumental and argumentative rationalities” which govern “the process by which domestic and transnational actors, states, and international institutions” influence nation-states can be found is moot. If we take seriously the contention that knowledge is socially constructed, that it emanates from particular readings of policy problems and their solutions by different actors, it should follow that it cannot be exchanged instrumentally without an (implicit) struggle over the definition of legitimate policy problems, responsibilities, and solutions.

In both the epistemic communities and TAN approaches, the focus remains on the nation-state as the location of governance, and the significance of non-state actors is measured in terms of the extent to which they shape, facilitate, and change the behavior of nation-states within international regimes (Litfin, 1993:96; Auer, 2000:159; Rosenau, 2000:170). In a third approach, sometimes labelled “global civil society,” scholars have begun to examine the role of transnational networks in a more radical way. These approaches move away from state-centered analyses to consider the multiplicity of actors and institutions that influence the ways in which global environmental issues are addressed across different scales. Lipschutz (1997a:446) views the rise of these networks as “manifestations of the diffusion of governance away from a concentration in the state to both the global and local levels.” From this perspective, global environmental governance is not only the province of inter-state negotiations and regimes. Rather, governance takes place through “systems of rule” (Rosenau, 1992) that operate at different scales and represent the “sum of the many ways that individuals and institutions, public and private, manage their common affairs” (O'Brien et al., 2000:9). In other words:

Governance occurs on a global scale through both the co-ordination of states and the activities of a vast array of rule systems that exercise authority in the pursuit of goals that function outside normal national jurisdictions.(Rosenau, 2000:172)

Like TAN, these networks are seen as the result both of the rise of global issues and the increasing opportunities for global connections offered by globalization and the dispersal of information and communications technology. Moreover, global civil society approaches share with TAN the belief that networks are influential insofar as they mobilize information, ideas, and values, with the objective being to “win the struggles that take place over the attribution of specific social meaning to particular events, actions and ideas” (Lipschutz, 1997b:91). For example, Wapner (1996) argues that the power of transnational environmental groups (constituting part of global civil society) lies in their ability to shape human behavior through changing the dominant discourses, moral codes, and knowledge surrounding environmental problems. Here, authority is not exercised through vertical relations of domination and control, but is manifest through compliance with negotiated goals and norms (Rosenau, 2001).

Collectively, the focus on transnational networks marks a shift within the discipline of international relations from a preoccupation with hierarchical structures toward an appreciation of the importance of network forms of organization in global environmental governance. Not only are these networks considered influential insofar as they shape the range and extent of state action, but for some they are also an important site for the governance of global environmental issues in their own right. Recognition of the significance of governance through transnational networks challenges conventional notions of politics and power, and emphasizes the constructed and contested nature of global environmental problems. These various theories all stress that political authority accrues to transnational networks through their ability to garner and deploy information, knowledge, and values (Haas, 1990; Lipschutz, 1996; Keck and Sikkink, 1998). Yet there has been little attention paid to these processes. How do networks produce and disseminate information, knowledge, and values? What is the role of such processes in securing and maintaining participation in the network? How do information, knowledge, and values generated by the network facilitate policy learning and change? In other words, how does governance take place within transnational networks? In the next section, we introduce one such network, the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) program run by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). We then draw on this case to examine questions of network governance.

The Cities for Climate Protection Program

As we argued above, most discussions of transnational networks in international relations tend to assume that they primarily consist of, and behave as, non-state entities.5 Moreover, the core assumption that the state is a singular, sovereign, and national unit has remained largely unchallenged. Implicitly, the TAN approach assumes that the state is a unitary entity, which is either a participant in the network or the object of its advocacy activities. Lipschutz (1996:57) takes a more nuanced view of the state, acknowledging that states are “multi-level, pervasive and in constant conflict with themselves,” and that complex relations exist between different levels of government and (non)state actors which implement government policy, suggesting that there might be space for considering the role of subnational governments in global environmental governance. However, his analysis of the emergence of networks within global civil society is primarily concerned with the links being forged between non-state actors across different places and at different scales, with the role of state entities significant insofar as they facilitate or impede this process (Lipschutz, 1996:98).

As a result of both the continuing emphasis on the state as a national entity and the preoccupation with non-state actors in existing literatures, the role of transnational networks of subnational governments in global environmental governance has been overlooked. This is perhaps all the more surprising given the battle cry of the sustainable development movement, “think globally, act locally,” and the development of Local Agenda 21 (LA21) at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and the 1996 Habitat II conference.6 One of the key features of the post-Rio era has been the growth in transnational networks of subnational governments, with estimates suggesting that there are at least twenty-eight such networks in Europe alone (Ward and Williams, 1997). One of the largest networks, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), was established in 1990 by the International Union of Local Authorities and the United Nations Environment Programme to represent the environmental concerns of local government internationally. ICLEI works to “establish an active and committed municipal membership … that promotes environmental and sustainable development initiatives within the framework of decentralised cooperation” (ICLEI, 2002a). Its members consist of more than 350 local governments and their associations from around the world. The CCP program was established by ICLEI in 1993, following a successful pilot scheme, the Urban CO2Reduction Project7 involving fourteen European and North American local authorities, and was launched at an international summit of municipal leaders held at the UN headquarters in New York.

The CCP program is premised on the assumption that while the efforts of any single local government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be relatively modest, by working together local authorities can make a significant contribution to efforts to mitigate climate change. Cities, it is suggested in the literature, are key sites in the production and management of energy use and waste production, through processes over which local authorities have a (varying) degree of influence. Local authorities can regulate, advise, and facilitate action by local communities and stakeholders, and have considerable experience in addressing environmental impacts within the fields of energy management, transport, and planning, and many have already undertaken innovative measures and strategies to reduce their impact on climate change (Lambright, Changnon, and Harvey, 1996; Collier, 1997; Collier and Löfstedt, 1997; Angel et al., 1998; DeAngelo and Harvey, 1998; McEvoy, Gibbs, and Longhurst, 1999; Wilbanks and Kates, 1999; Association of American Geographers, forthcoming). In short, local governments will be critical players in any attempt to implement national and international policy imperatives to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and have a significant role to play in climate protection in their own right.

The original aim of the CCP program was to recruit local governments whose collective emissions of greenhouse gases accounted for 10 percent of the global total. To become a member of the CCP campaign, local governments must pass a resolution or other formal declaration of their intention to address the threat of global climate change. As of October 2002, the CCP program had 561 members worldwide, representing over 8 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.8 Initially, the CCP campaign was coordinated at ICLEI's international headquarters in Toronto. However, recently ICLEI has established national and regional campaigns through which to decentralize the delivery of the CCP program. By 2002, national campaigns had been established in Australia, Canada, Finland, India, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, the UK, and the U.S. In addition, ICLEI has regional campaigns in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. This process of decentralization has in part been facilitated by nation-states. For example, the U.S., Canadian, and Australian governments contribute significant financial resources to their national CCP programs and the U.S. Agency for International Development financed pilot projects to establish the national campaigns in India, Mexico, the Philippines, and South Africa. Likewise, the European Commission has provided direct funding to ICLEI Europe, and indirectly creates resource opportunities for transnational networks through competitive bidding procedures for particular projects or initiatives. However, although states and supra-state organizations have provided finances for the development of the program, their role is essentially “hands-off,” with ICLEI primarily responsible for defining the purposes for which these will be used, and for developing and monitoring the program overall.

The CCP program is premised on the assumption that the barriers to local action on climate change are primarily due to a lack of information. Thus, the network is organized around the production and dissemination of technical information about local contributions to climate change, measures that can be taken locally to address the problem, and the potential co-benefits. Once signed on to the program, members commit to passing through five milestones: conducting an energy and emissions inventory and forecast; establishing an emissions reduction target; developing a local action plan to achieve this goal; implementing policies and measures to this end; and undertaking processes of monitoring and verifying results. ICLEI provides CCP members with technical assistance and training to complete these milestones. In conjunction with Torrie Smith Associates, Inc., a Canadian environmental consulting firm, the CCP program has developed a software package to help local authorities calculate, forecast, and monitor their emissions of greenhouse gases. This software translates data related to energy use across different sectors and other activities into emissions of greenhouse gases, and can be used for evaluating the effectiveness and economic benefits of various options for their reduction. Both the milestone framework and the use of quantification reflect the CCP program's emphasis on the need to evaluate performance and improve local accountability.

The CCP campaign also promotes networking and provides information on best practices, through workshops and the publication of case-studies, though the extent to which such resources are available is dependent on the structure and financing of national or regional campaigns. At the time this research was conducted, little such support existed for those local authorities in the UK who had joined the program,9 while in the U.S. an active national network was in place and in Australia substantial funding for the program had been provided by the federal government (Bulkeley, 2000). In building support for their program, as well as emphasizing the climate-related benefits of controlling local greenhouse gas emissions, ICLEI highlights the co-benefits of taking action, including the potential for considerable economic savings, improving local air quality, and increasing the liveability of communities. In effect, through adhering to the CCP program framework and participating in its activities, members share both normative goals, that climate change is a problem and can be addressed locally, and a commitment to a particular policy approach based on the measurement and monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions.

Although networks of local governments have largely been notable by their absence from the international relations literature, Risse-Kappen's (1995:3) definition of transnational networks, as involving “regular interaction across national boundaries when at least one actor is a non-state agent or does not operate on behalf of a national government or intergovernmental organization,” suggests that networks such as the CCP program should not be excluded from consideration. While networks of local governments may be relatively unique, in that their members represent an element of the state, they share in common with other networks a form of governance generated by the exchange and negotiation of information, knowledge, resources, and norms. However, taking such networks seriously suggests moving away from notions of the unitary nation-state as the primary location of governance, and building on the insights offered by the literature on global civil society that networks are in themselves an important site for the exercise of governance.

Network Governance

A weakness of the international relations literature is that it provides little guidance as to how to evaluate governance processes within transnational networks such as the CCP program. As Koehn and Rosenau (2002:106) argue, “unravelling the conditions under which networks and their knowledge-aggregation, social-capital formation, and collective-action efforts are effective is crucial to comprehending the course of events in a particular issue area.” Questions of how participation is secured and maintained as well as how networks promote policy learning10 and change remain unanswered. However, across political science more broadly, literature on network forms of governance, including policy networks (Marsh and Rhodes, 1992; O'Riordan and Jordan, 1996), advocacy coalitions (Sabatier, 1998; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1999), and discourse coalitions (Hajer, 1995), provides a basis for considering these issues. Below, we examine in turn how members' participation is secured within the CCP program, how membership is maintained, and how, and with what effect, policy learning has occurred, in order to illuminate how governance within networks takes place. In particular, we consider the role of technical information in these processes.

Network Formation

Within the literature on policy networks, the formation and maintenance of networks is seen to stem from mutual dependence among network members, both on specific material resources (e.g., money and information) and because in order to achieve policy outcomes with a minimal level of conflict, (national) government “needs the assistance and co-operation of other groups” (Smith, 1997:35). While transnational networks differ from policy networks in that they are not confined to any one national policy arena, resource interdependencies are critical to network functioning. In their study of transnational local authority networks in Europe, Bennington and Harvey (1999:216) found that “resource exchange, and resource dependency, within our networks included not just material resources (such as money or information) but less easily measurable resources (such as knowledge, intelligence, values, vision, judgment). In fact, in many cases the networks were not so much involved in resource exchange as resource production.” Likewise, the exchange and production of information, knowledge, and different problem “framings” are seen as crucial to transnational advocacy networks (Keck and Sikkink, 1998), advocacy coalitions (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1999), and discourse coalitions (Hajer, 1995).

Our case-studies suggest that the exchange and production of material and nonmaterial resources are indeed factors in securing network participation. The focus of the CCP program on the co-benefits of local action on climate change has resonated in those local authorities where an energy and/or sustainable development agenda had already been established. In these local authorities, levels of knowledge and information about the nature of energy use and its possible conservation were already significant. For example, in Newcastle (UK), concerns about financial savings and fuel poverty11 have meant that the local authority has been involved in energy management in its own property for over thirty years. In Denver, ICLEI's CO2Reduction Project was viewed as consistent with existing concerns about energy management and air quality. Not only did these prior interests prove important in attracting local authorities to the CCP program, frequently it was through these prior interests that each local authority came into contact with the network in the first place. For example, in Newcastle (UK) and Cambridgeshire, local officials learned of the CCP program through their involvement in other networks, including the Friends of the Earth Climate Resolution program.12 In fact, ICLEI's strategy in the UK was to recruit local authorities that had already demonstrated their concern for climate change by joining this program. Similarly, Newcastle (NSW) developed its interest in climate change as part of its Local Agenda 21 strategy. Local officials looked to the CCP network to gain recognition for this work when they were excluded from a national program on climate change (Bulkeley, 2000). Leicester came to the CCP network through its position as a recognized world leader on local sustainability and its involvement in other transnational networks.

These examples suggest that information about the nature of climate change or possibilities for local mitigation is not the primary resource drawing members to the CCP program. Rather, in each case, the CCP program has been one factor that has aided the reframing of existing concerns for energy and the environment in terms of climate change, creating knowledge about the local possibilities for addressing climate change, and generating norms about the value of doing so. In these case-studies, local officials have come to recognize, partly through the CCP program, that climate protection is consistent with what they are already doing in the areas of energy management and urban sustainability. While our case-studies do not allow us to claim that the CCP program comprises only leading local authorities, they do suggest that greater attention needs to be paid to the sorts of local authorities likely to become involved in such networks. Information and knowledge about climate change and local approaches to mitigation will have little resonance in communities without a “hook” on which to attach the issue (Betsill, 2001).

In addition, in each of our case-studies, individuals who saw membership in the CCP program as a way to promote their interests, values, and norms with respect to climate change were key to securing network participation. Milwaukee's Mayor John Norquist, who reportedly knew the head of ICLEI and has a general interest in environmental protection, directed his environmental policy coordinator to become involved in the CCP program. A small group of individuals from the Newcastle (NSW) City Council met CCP officials at the 1996 Habitat II conference and agreed to host the Pathways to Sustainability conference, which in turn contributed to the formation of the CCP-Australia program. Denver's interest in climate change can be traced back to one individual within the Department of Public Health (now the Department of Environmental Health) who had a background interest in renewable energy. This fits with Collier and Löfstedt's (1997:36) analysis of climate protection policies in local government in Sweden and the UK, which they found were “often the function of one or two particularly committed local authority officers, members of the local Council, or representatives of the municipal energy company, who have managed to persuade the rest of the Council on the merits of drawing up reduction strategies.” This analysis again raises questions about the ability of the CCP program to engage a broader range of local authorities, including those that lack individuals prepared to champion the cause of climate change. Moreover, it is important to note that in each case, individuals viewed the CCP program as providing personal benefits, including opportunities to voice concerns, learn from others in a supportive environment, gain international experience and access to financial resources, and promote their interests within local government. Technical information about how to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases locally was one of many resources valued by potential network members. However, given that several of the local authorities had already committed themselves to addressing climate change before joining the CCP program, this was seen as less significant than the financial resources, personal connections, political kudos, endorsement, and leverage which membership promised to afford. These findings suggest that the formation of transnational networks is driven not only by actors seeking to gain knowledge and information, or influence and legitimacy in extra-local arenas, but also by the desire to re-frame policy agendas and add political weight to particular coalitions within the local arena.

Network Maintenance

As discussed above, one of the CCP program's objectives is the recruitment of local authorities whose collective emissions of carbon dioxide are 10 percent of the global total. While the network is on its way to achieving that goal, our case-studies suggest that the level of participation among members is varied. Transnational networks are more likely to be maintained when participants establish “open” connections to the network, creating thick and dense webs of interactions. Among our case-studies, Denver and Newcastle (NSW) exhibited the most open connections to the CCP program. In each case, officials have been actively involved with the continual monitoring and reporting of in-house energy use, regularly participate in CCP workshops, and have gained access to additional financial resources through the network. In contrast, no meaningful connection was ever established between officials in Milwaukee or Cambridgeshire and the CCP program. In Milwaukee, although the officer initially responsible for the program took part in some network events, he had little opportunity to share these experiences with other members of the local authority and the program remained external to every aspect of policy development. When this individual left the local authority, Milwaukee's participation in the CCP program effectively ceased. Similarly, officials in Cambridgeshire found themselves unable to engage in any ongoing monitoring exercise, in part because of the limited availability of data on energy use across the community and a lack of resources to access it, and felt the information on best practices offered by the network was not relevant to the UK context. As a result, the council has remained at arm's length from the program.

Our case-studies suggest at least two factors that shape prospects for establishing open connections among members and the network. First, individual political champions appear important not only for securing participation but also for maintaining involvement. In Denver, Newcastle (NSW), and Leicester, a degree of continuity among council officers and politicians has been one factor that has maintained contact between the local authority and the CCP program. In the other cases, personnel and political changes have resulted in the connection with the CCP program being abandoned, lost, or forgotten. However, the influence of individuals should not be overstated, for even in those local authorities in which proactive individuals were instrumental in retaining membership in the network, action in the key sectors of land-use planning, transport, and energy conservation in the built environment has been limited (Bulkeley and Betsill, 2003). We return to this point below.

A second factor in network maintenance relates to the ability of members to capitalize on the material and nonmaterial resources offered by the network. For Denver and Newcastle (NSW), open links with the CCP program have not been primarily because of the technical, or information, resources offered by the network. Each local authority had considerable prior experience in accounting for energy use and developing innovative solutions for corporate energy management, and has since chosen to develop alternative means for monitoring energy use. In Newcastle (NSW), this has been done through the development of climateCam with the Rocky Mountain Institute, and in Denver, through the work of the Utilities Director. Rather it has been the financial, political resources offered by the program that has been critical. For example, in Denver and Newcastle (NSW), participation in the CCP program has given those parts of the local authority concerned with energy management access to additional financial resources. In Denver, this has been through changes in internal funding priorities and funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. In Newcastle (NSW), the Australian Municipal Energy Improvement Facility (AMEIF), created to promote the city council's experience, has been contracted by the CCP-Australia program and other local authorities to provide assistance with energy management strategies. Moreover, by promoting financial savings through energy efficiency, the CCP program has contributed to making additional resources available in each local authority for investment in further energy management initiatives, though these schemes were started before membership of the program. In Newcastle (NSW), extensive retrofitting of energy-efficient lighting and heating systems has been undertaken, contributing to a reduction in annual energy costs to the council of 35 percent since 1996. In addition, the establishment of a revolving fund with some of the resulting savings has allowed the council to invest in a range of schemes that would not have been possible through normal local authority finances, including the development of renewable energy demonstration projects. In Denver, the municipal government began installing light-emitting diodes (LEDs) in 1996 in all red traffic lights and “don't walk” signs in the city's 1,200 intersections (21,000 units). LEDs consume considerably less electricity than incandescent bulbs (6–25 watts vs. 69–150 watts) and last much longer (100,000+ hours vs. 8,000 hours). The city spent $1.6 million for the replacement project (for acquisition and labor), but has enjoyed substantial savings in terms of energy and maintenance costs (estimated at $356,840/year) and expects to realize $5 million in savings after covering its initial investment (in four years) (EPA, n.d.). Access to these financial resources has been generated through the development of knowledge about the local possibilities of energy efficiency, the creation of norms concerning the role of local government in climate protection, and subsequent political support. These factors provided support for membership of the CCP program, which in turn has added legitimacy to this approach and provided access to further financial resources.

Not all local authorities were able to access these financial resources. Internal funding arrangements have been particularly critical. In the majority of our cases, the pursuit of internal energy management policies was made possible by financial arrangements in which the upfront costs of investing in energy management were borne by the local authority and repaid over time, and where financial savings were invested in further energy efficiency or renewable energy measures. These internal funding opportunities were not created by the CCP program and instead could be seen as a factor enabling those local authorities to actively participate in the network. Most significantly, they have led to the development of expertise within the local authority on issues related to energy management, which in turn has given the CCP program reason to recruit and retain these members. It is important to note that Denver and Newcastle (NSW), the local authorities with the most open connection to the CCP network, are net donators of best practice information. In contrast, Milwaukee's budget agency refuses to fund energy efficiency initiatives based on future savings, which has served to marginalize energy management, and political interest in this issue remains scarce, suggesting that where knowledge and norms about the purpose of climate protection have yet to be developed, the CCP program may find it difficult to engender action. Furthermore, while access to outside funding sources may be facilitated by network participation, such funding is usually available on a competitive basis. Only those local authorities that win these competitions can benefit from this resource; those local authorities that continually lose out may not be persuaded that continued network participation is worthwhile. In Leicester, in the absence of any national campaign or government support such as that available in Australia and the U.S., monetary resources, other than grants accrued from the European Commission on a competitive basis through the formation of partnerships with like-minded cities, were unavailable. In this context, and where the information offered by the network was either not accessed or seen as irrelevant, participation in the network was on an ad hoc basis rather than part of a sustained process, and easily severed in changing political climates.

Nonmaterial resources have also been important in maintaining open connections between local authorities and the CCP network. In Denver and Newcastle (NSW), active involvement in processes of generating information through the continual monitoring and reporting of corporate energy use, as well as the creation of best practice, has cemented links between the local authority and the CCP network. These activities are not merely technical exercises, but provide a continual source of contact between the local authority and the network, as well as a sense of mutual dependency and common purpose, which keeps the network together. Not all local authorities have been able to engage in these processes, further weakening their links to the network. In Leicester and Newcastle (UK), ongoing processes of assessing local emissions of greenhouse gas emissions were never established, partly because officials had difficulty accessing relevant data and partly because the original exercises to develop emissions monitoring depended on one-off grants, and information on best practice provided by the CCP program was not seen as necessary or applicable to the UK context (problems also encountered in Cambridgeshire). In turn, this meant that regular contact and involvement with the CCP network was not established, and officials in these cities found they were unable to capitalize on the material resources provided by the network.

The national and international recognition of the initiatives undertaken by members of the CCP program has proven to be yet another valued resource provided by the network. Denver and Newcastle (NSW) have been critical to the success of the CCP program in their respective countries, both as exemplars of what can be achieved and as actors in disseminating information, knowledge, and values concerning the need for local climate protection. For Denver, participation in the CCP network has been a way to promote the city as an environmental leader. For Newcastle (NSW), the network offers the opportunity to solidify its emerging “clean and green” image. National and international recognition of the initiatives undertaken in these communities has created political kudos for those individuals concerned, in turn enabling them to persuade others within the local authority of the legitimacy of energy management and climate protection policies. Similarly, in Leicester and Newcastle (UK), involvement in the CCP program gave particular individuals political kudos, at least in its initial stages, and created the opportunity for these individuals to move energy and climate protection up the local agenda. Yet the inability of officials in these cities to engage in ongoing assessment processes limited their participation in the network and left them with few opportunities for accessing the nonmaterial resources offered by the network, including peer support and political recognition. As a result, the link between the CCP network and the local authorities was never fully developed and by the late 1990s, the program had been all but abandoned in each case.13

In light of the variation in network participation between members, evaluating transnational networks in terms of the extent of their membership could be misleading if, for example, their level of involvement is more like Milwaukee than Newcastle (NSW). Moreover, our research indicates that the production and exchange of information alone is insufficient to secure and maintain transnational networks. In the cases of Denver and Newcastle (NSW), close links with the network have been formed on the basis of the financial and political resources offered by the CCP program, for example, access to additional internal financial resources and political kudos which lends individuals and their ideas legitimacy, the creation of local knowledge about climate protection, and shared norms, rather than because of the dissemination of technical information. Recall that both cities are net donators of best practice information. However, the production and exchange of information about climate protection has provided a vehicle through which connections have been forged, norms reinforced, and access to material resources provided. This suggests that transnational networks cannot be considered exclusively as a means for the dissemination of information, or the generation of norms, or access points for additional material resources. Rather, knowledge, norms, and resources are inextricably linked in the processes of building and maintaining networks.

Policy Learning

In addition to securing and maintaining the network, a critical objective of the CCP program has been to build local capacity to address climate change. As we argued above, the role of transnational networks in governing global environmental issues is frequently linked to their ability to “influence policy outcomes … [and] transform the terms and nature of the debate” (Keck and Sikkink, 1998:2). What is less clear, however, is how this takes place. A means of conceptualizing this process is as one of policy learning. For some, policy learning is considered to be a rational process, where, in response to additional information, thinking and action on a problem are changed (Sabatier, 1998; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1999). Alternatively, the process can be seen as more discursive, so that not only is new knowledge created about a policy problem, but the nature and interpretation of the policy problem itself is challenged and reframed (Hajer, 1995; Lipschutz, 1997b; Keck and Sikkink, 1998; Owens and Rayner, 1999; Owens and Cowell, 2002).

In the first approach, learning is conceived as a rational process in which policymakers seek alternative approaches to reach a given policy goal. This notion of policy learning, referred to variously as “single-loop learning” (Argyris and Schon, 1978), “simple learning” (Jachtenfuchs, 1996), or “lesson drawing” (Rose, 1993) in the literature, suggests that policymakers dissatisfied with current approaches to a particular problem seek to find alternative means of realizing specific policy goals. In this framework, improving access to information is assumed to lead to “improved learning capacities and learning results, i.e. to the selection of better means to achieve the organizational or policy goals” (Jactenfuchs, 1996:33). Likewise, the advocacy coalition framework, developed by Sabatier and colleagues (Sabatier, 1998; Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1999) to analyze the role of knowledge in policy processes, conceives of policy learning as “a fairly technical process of considering the means of policy” (Jordan and Greenaway, 1998:674). As noted above, the CCP program is premised on this approach, as shown in the milestone model, where, in a cyclical process, reporting and forecasting local greenhouse gas emissions leads to the creation of a reduction target, implementation plan, measures to address the problem, and the monitoring of progress (see Figure 1). The emphasis within the program on increasing capacity to monitor and forecast emissions, through the development of software tools for this purpose, and on spreading best practice ideas, rests on the assumption that increased information about the issue and potential solutions will create policy change in a relatively straightforward manner.


A Process of Rational Policy Learning

However, there is little evidence from our six case-studies that this kind of policy learning has taken place. As we suggested above, in four of the local authorities—Newcastle (UK), Leicester, Denver, and Newcastle (NSW)—knowledge about the nature of local greenhouse emissions had been developed before they joined the program, and there was already a significant reservoir of expertise about the means through which to address the issue amongst interested individuals. In both Newcastle (UK) and Leicester, comprehensive inventories of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions across the city were undertaken, and through the Energy and the Urban Environment (NCC, 1992) study developed in Newcastle (UK) and the 1994 Leicester Energy Strategy (LCC, 1994), various strategies for energy conservation and increasing the use of alternative forms of energy created. In Newcastle (NSW) and Denver, inventories of in-house energy use and the measures to reduce energy consumption were undertaken before either local government joined the CCP program, though subsequently Newcastle (NSW) has developed an emissions inventory for the whole community. However, in each local government there is a common conceptual approach to addressing energy management and climate protection at the local level, which, while developed before they joined the CCP program, accords with its overall ethos and has been reinforced through their membership of the program. In essence, energy management is seen as a technical exercise, to which climate protection provides an additional rationale. There is an emphasis on the need to model local energy use and emissions of greenhouse gases in order to be able to take action, summed up by Newcastle (NSW) with the phrase, “if you can't measure it, you can't manage it” (NCC NSW, 2001:33). Further, the assumption is that through the development of new technologies, the implementation of best practice projects, and the dissemination of information to individuals to create behavioral change, desired levels of energy use can be attained. This creates a “highly audited view of the city in which information about energy flows, capacities and footprints is needed so that individuals and organizations can act appropriately.” (Evans, Guy, and Marvin, 2001:127). In other words, the assumption is that policy learning takes place in a rational manner through the communication of information.

While the CCP program has increased the knowledge of some individuals, in none of the cases did the creation of emissions inventories, or exposure to best practice examples, automatically lead to policy learning and change within the local authority. Given the complex nature of policymaking in local governments, at once pursuing their own policies and addressing the targets and limits set by central government, as well as working with a range of non-state agencies and across departmental boundaries, this is of little surprise. Moreover, those local authorities that have joined the program already exhibited high levels of understanding in relation to energy management and climate protection. Models that conceptualize the policy system as a homogenous entity, where the provision of “better” information can lead to rational policy change, fall short of providing an adequate explanation of the nature of policy learning experienced by members of the CCP program. Furthermore, taking on board the proposition that knowledge is socially constructed suggests that any theory of “learning” that regards it as an instrumental process of information transmission is somewhat wanting.

Our case-studies suggest that, where policy learning has taken place, it has been more akin to a discursive process. In this approach, policy learning is seen not only as a technical process, in which actors or organizations seek to improve their knowledge of a particular policy problem, but also as involving “a struggle for discursive hegemony in which actors try to secure support for their definitions of reality” (Hajer, 1995:59). Various means, including “double-loop learning” (Argyris and Schon, 1978), “social learning” (Hall, 1993), and “complex learning” (Jactenfuchs, 1996), have been used to describe the processes that occur as new policy challenges create paradigmatic changes in the underlying norms and goals of policymaking surrounding particular issues and problems. However, despite their recognition of the contested nature of policy change, in these interpretations of learning the process remains conceptualized as a linear progression in response to recognized problems with existing policy approaches. Alternative accounts stress the argumentative nature of policy learning, as a contest between competing “frames” (Fischer and Forester, 1993; Rein and Schon, 1993; Jactenfuchs, 1996) or “discourses” (Hajer, 1995), where outcomes are a reflection of complex dynamics between actors adhering to one or other competing understandings of the policy problem and concomitant solutions. Adopting this understanding of policy learning, we argue that the CCP program serves as a means of creating new discourses about the nature of (local) climate protection, and offers legitimacy and authority to those who draw on it by virtue of its claims to “scientific” knowledge and global representation (see Figure 2).


A Process of Discursive Policy Learning

As discussed above, in those local authorities with more open connections to the CCP network—Newcastle (UK), Leicester, Denver, and Newcastle (NSW)—rather than providing new information, the CCP program has aided the reframing of prior knowledge and concerns in terms of climate change. This has meant “localizing” climate change (Betsill, 2001); reframing a problem that is generally viewed as a global issue as locally significant, as policymakers increasingly recognize that climate protection is consistent with (some) other (local) issues and objectives:

I mean we don't have … in the Council a high profile for CCP … there's not a big campaign about CCP … we haven't used that as a strap-line to get people involved. So almost what has happened is that the professionals have used it, to then move [climate change] forward, in the authority… (Council Officer, Leicester City Council, October 1999)

The CCP program has been one resource that individuals and groups within local authorities have drawn upon to advance a particular discourse of local energy and/or environmental policy as an issue that has significant global consequences, and with which local government should be concerned. Rather than using the CCP program as a source of technical expertise, the program provides a source of inspiration, recognition, and legitimation for particular interpretations about the environmental responsibilities of local governments, and of the interconnections between different agendas. In this respect, the program has been a means through which norms about local climate protection have been negotiated, reiterated, and sustained (Keck and Sikkink, 1998).

However, our case-studies suggest that the extent of this type of policy learning among CCP participants has been limited, and that the program itself has played a minimal role in any such processes, in turn raising questions about the extent to which transnational networks can transform the nature and terms of the debate in particular policy arenas. One, relatively superficial, level of learning and change occurs through discourse structuration, where “the credibility of actors in a given domain requires them to draw on the ideas, concepts and categories of a given discourse” (Hajer, 1995:60). The CCP program has contributed, to at least some degree, to this type of learning in all of the case-studies except for Milwaukee. In each of the other cases, the rhetoric of climate protection has entered policy rationale in the sectors of land-use planning, transport, and energy management in the built environment. For example, in Newcastle (UK), the Unitary Development Plan, which provides the strategic framework for planning across the city and guides development control, states that reductions of emissions of carbon dioxide by 30 percent of 1990 levels by 2010 are achievable through “proposals that can be assisted by land use and transportation planning” (NCC, 1998:44). To this end, two types of policies are suggested: those that attempt to reduce the use of energy through shaping the urban form, such as reducing the need to travel; and those that address energy use through design, for example, through the use of energy efficiency standards and the inclusion of renewable energy measures (NCC, 1998:44–45). Such an approach reflects both Newcastle's long-standing interest in energy and planning, the interests of particular individuals within the planning department, and the changing context of land-use planning in the UK, where the promotion of urban sustainability has received significant attention in national government planning policy guidance.

Despite these rhetorical changes, the extent to which Newcastle has been able to act on these imperatives has been constrained to those instances where the City Council owns the land and can therefore insist on special measures, or where developers are willing to meet additional demands in order to secure a valued site. In the majority of cases, the ability of the council to enact policies to mitigate climate change is constrained by three key factors (Bulkeley and Betsill, 2003). First, the guidance contained within the Unitary Development Plan is soft, recommending that developers should be encouraged rather than required to take action with respect to energy use through the location or design of development. Second, the capacity of the local authority to implement measures that explicitly target the energy consumption of individual dwellings, such as energy efficiency standards or passive solar design, remains limited. While the City Council has provided guidance on these issues, it is unable to enforce high standards through the planning system, in part because they are considered matters to be addressed through the national building regulations. Third, the majority of planning decisions are couched in the presumption in favor of development and the need to secure economic prosperity and increased housing numbers in the city; goals seen to be threatened by the imposition of explicitly environmental criteria, such as climate protection, on development. In these circumstances, evidence that climate protection has become embedded within local discourses concerning planning may not indicate that any significant policy learning has occurred. While in part this reflects the nature of local government, as constrained by other levels of governance and by the need to negotiate between competing interests, non-state actors in transnational networks would be expected to encounter similar constraints. This suggests there is a need to more closely interrogate the extent to which transnational networks are able to achieve more than discourse structuration, and the consequent implications for environmental governance.

More meaningful policy learning and change is evident when a given discourse is translated into concrete policies and institutional arrangements or where “issues are reframed, or selected, organized and interpreted in new ways” so that what was taken for granted is problematized (Owens and Cowell, 2002:170). Our case-studies suggest that such instances are rare. Only in Newcastle (NSW) and Denver have climate change considerations been integrated into the institutional structure and policy practices of local government. In Denver, a full-time staff member has been designated to coordinate the CCP program, which involves monitoring and reporting on initiatives taking place across departments within the local authority having implications for local greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, climate change has been adopted as a core activity of the city's environment division. In addition to the establishment of the AMEIF, climate change considerations have been formally integrated into policy and financial decisions in Newcastle (NSW) through a report on energy consumption and emissions of greenhouse gases, which is included in the quarterly budget review process of the City Council (NCC NSW, 2001). In both cities, the nature and terms of the debate concerning corporate responsibility and urban sustainability have begun to change within local policymaking arenas. These processes of policy learning and change about climate protection have not been facilitated by the provision of technical information through the CCP network, but rather through the reframing of local issues—air pollution and financial savings in the case of Denver, and economic regeneration as well as financial savings in Newcastle (NSW)—in global terms by small groups of individuals in each local authority. Rather than knowledge being used to inform policy decisions, as “truth” speaking to “power,” the power to define the nature of the environmental/energy policy problem shapes which knowledge is seen as legitimate (Flyvbjerg, 1998). As we suggested above, the CCP program has been influential in facilitating local policy learning about climate protection, and hence institutional capacity to address the issue, through providing access to additional financial resources, conveying political legitimacy to these individuals and the norms about climate change which they advocate through recognition of their achievements, and by benchmarking their performance against others.

As this discussion illustrates, limited capacity to address climate protection locally is not primarily the result of an absence of information and knowledge, but rather stems from a lack of resources or powers to act, and tensions over how urban sustainability is to be interpreted. Where the CCP program has been successful in building local capacity, this has primarily been as a result of the political and financial resources which membership of the network has transferred to particular individuals, who in turn have been able to reframe climate protection in line with issues of local significance and gain legitimacy for a particular set of norms concerning the co-benefits of acting on climate change and the need to take local responsibility for global issues. However, the extent of such policy learning has been minimal, for two, related, reasons. First, where new discourses concerning the role and nature of local responses to climate change have been created and accepted, this has frequently been through particular individuals or groups and has failed to permeate through the local authority. In part, this reflects the limited nature of connections between each local authority and the CCP program, often reliant on one individual, through which new discourses, of energy, urban sustainability, and climate change could be created and reinforced. In addition, it relates to the fragmented nature of local (and national) governments, so that different parts of the state will be competing with each other to define and address policy problems. Second, the local politics of climate change involves multiple policy networks, many of which pre-date concerns for climate change specifically and which are entrenched around particular policy sectors. New discourses about the need to reconsider, for example, the relationship between economic growth and traffic growth, in the light of local responsibilities to protect the climate, have made little headway within dominant policy communities promoting business as usual, even within Newcastle (NSW) and Denver, where the CCP program has had the most impact. This raises questions about the extent to which transnational networks can establish new, local, communities of interest around particular agendas, and create policy change. This is not to dismiss the influence of transnational networks out of hand. Clearly, as we have argued above, the CCP program has been influential in shaping policy development and action on local climate protection. However, if compliance with the goals and norms of transnational networks is one means of assessing their authority, then our findings suggest that their impact and influence is at best partial, and imply that processes of policy learning promoted by transnational networks are more contested and conflictual than has previously been suggested.


The CCP program is one of a growing number of transnational networks of subnational governments, which have so far remained overlooked within the literature on global environmental governance. Given their prevalence, particularly within Europe, and the significant role many authors have attributed to local governments and communities in putting sustainable development into practice, we have argued that such networks deserve analysis in their own right. Moreover, such networks can form useful case-studies through which to consider broader questions concerning the nature of transnational networks. While the potential significance of transnational networks in global environmental governance has been documented, many questions about their influence remain. We suggest that in order that these questions are addressed, scholars will need to engage with two central issues.

First, there is a need to move away from viewing the state as the primary target of transnational networks, toward a more multilevel understanding of governance, a move which some authors have already started (Lipschutz, 1996, 1997b; Rosenau, 1997; Vogler, 2003). This entails more than adding new (non-state) actors onto a global stage of environmental governance dominated by the nation-state. Rather, our analysis suggests that such a shift must encompass a questioning of the nature of the state and the dichotomy between state and non-state actors. The CCP program demonstrates that states are far from unitary entities, and that the analysis of transnational networks must take account of their state, as well as their non-state, dimensions. Further, the importance of transnational networks as sites for the governance of global environmental issues in and of themselves, as arenas through which problems are shaped, defined, contested, and in which resources are controlled and compliance sought, calls for recognition.

Second, more attention needs to be directed toward the processes through which networks function and govern, and in particular to the role of knowledge and information. Our findings show that those local authorities most effectively engaged with the network are mobilized as much by the financial and political resources offered by the CCP program as by processes of knowledge creation and norm generation, and that access to technical and best practice information has not been a significant factor. While previous research has highlighted the power of information and ideas in transnational networks, our analysis of the CCP program indicates that networks are held together through the creation of financial, political, and discursive “glue,” and that the exchange of information and other material resources is a means through which such connections are secured rather than being an end in itself. This finding is particularly significant for the CCP network as it suggests that opportunities to enhance network effectiveness may be lost if too much attention is focused on information exchange alone. It also serves to question the centrality of information generation, dissemination, and exchange in network governance, and to point to the importance of considering other factors, including material resources, individuals, legitimacy, and the sharing and generation of norms in analyzing the role and influence of transnational networks. Our findings also indicate that processes of policy learning within transnational networks are far from straightforward, and cannot be understood simply in terms of the transmission of ideas and information. Instead, policy learning can best be conceptualized as a discursive process in which transnational networks act as a means through which issues are reframed and reiterated. However, despite its role as an arena for the governance of climate change, evidence that such learning occurs in the CCP program is limited. In turn, this raises questions about the extent to which such networks can transform the nature and terms of the debate, and their role within emerging processes of global environmental governance across different policy arenas.


  • Author's note: An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2002 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. We thank participants, Pauline Mcguirk, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

  • 1 We distinguish between “information,” a set of data or facts that can be readily communicated across contexts, and “knowledge,” a broader category to which information belongs (and through which it is contextualized) but which also includes perception, understanding, and comprehension, is often implicit or unconscious, and is communicated through experience and/or personal interaction.

  • 2 These three projects were: “Global sustainability in an urban form: the impacts and implications of ICLEI's Cities for Climate Protection programme,” conducted by Harriet Bulkeley in the UK and Australia 1999–2001 with support from the Nuffield Foundation and the Smuts Memorial Fund; “Localizing Global Climate Change” conducted by Michele Betsill in the U.S. during 1999–2000 as part of the Global Environmental Assessment Project, Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University; and “Valuing the Global Environment,” doctoral research conducted in Australia by Harriet Bulkeley 1995–1998, with support from the University of Cambridge, the Smuts Memorial Fund, and the Sir Robert Menzies Centre for Australian Studies, London. This support is gratefully acknowledged, though the views represented in this article are those of the authors alone. While the methods used in each project varied to some extent, they all involved conducting semi-structured interviews with key actors at local, national, and international levels, as well as the analysis of policy documents and grey literature.

  • 3 International regimes can be defined as “social institutions that consist of agreed upon principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures, and programs that govern the interactions of actors in specific issue areas” (Young, 1997a:5–6).

  • 4 Where effective is usually defined in terms of successful cooperation between nation-states and the coherence of the regime (Victor, Raustiala, and Skolnikoff, 1998; Young, 1999; Kütting, 2000; Miles et al., 2001).

  • 5 A notable exception is Slaughter's (1997) discussion of “transgovernmentalism.” She contends that the new international order consists of dense webs of relations between distinct parts of the state (e.g., regulatory agencies) that interact with their counterparts abroad. However, her discussion is limited primarily to national level entities.

  • 6 As an outcome of the 1972 Stockholm conference on the Human Environment, in 1976 Habitat I was held in Vancouver to discuss local environmental problems. After the Rio Earth Summit, the issue of urban environmental problems was once more on the international agenda and in 1996 the UN General Assembly convened Habitat II in Istanbul. The conference had a broad agenda, and faced considerable challenges in reaching agreement on a definition of sustainable urban development, which was accepted by different countries and communities. Commentators suggest that environmental issues were neglected, in favor of more pressing issues concerning shelter and poverty (Elander and Lidskog, 2000:41).

  • 7 The Urban CO2 Reduction Project was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the City of Toronto, and several private foundations. It was designed to “develop comprehensive local strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and quantification methods to support such strategies” (ICLEI, 1997).

  • 8 Membership of the CCP program as of 15 October 2002 (ICLEI, 2002b). Members of the CCP program are not necessarily members of ICLEI.

  • 9 In 2000, a pilot Councils for Climate Protection was launched in the UK by ICLEI, the UK Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, and the Improvement and Development Agency (an agency for local government). The case-studies discussed in this article joined the global CCP program before this initiative.

  • 10 For a full discussion of policy learning see also Bennett and Howlett, 1992; Jordan and Greenaway, 1998; Knoepfel and Kissling-Naf, 1998.

  • 11 “Fuel poverty” is the inability to afford adequate warmth (in terms of the proportion of income which must be spent to achieve recommended room temperatures) because of the energy inefficiency of the home (Boardman, 1991).

  • 12 The Climate Resolution promulgated by Friends of the Earth UK in the early 1990s was a pledge made by local governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2005.

  • 13 Leicester retained a passive interest in the CCP program, and has recently had an active role in the network through the UK pilot Councils for Climate Protection program.


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