Best Practice Report



Facilitating peer learning

Sharing experiences and best practices between officials across subnational governments can provide inspiration and helps address the awareness and knowledge deficit that often constrains action. In the US, for example, the adoption of municipal climate mitigation policies are influenced by internal factors such as the presence of staff members committed to energy and environment planning, and by external factors such as the level of community environmental activism and the influence of neighboring jurisdictions (Pitt, 2010).
Networks bringing together cities and regions engaged in green growth have proliferated in recent years, and have shown to be an effective channel for learning and the diffusion of good practice (Kern and Bulkeley, 2009). Emerging urban and regional networks such as C40 and ICLEI have played a significant role in facilitating the implementation of sustainable climate related actions (Case 5). These organizations raise awareness, facilitate learning and showcase local examples at the national and international levels. Moreover, they play a very important role in connecting leaders between municipalities enabling them to engage in international dialogues.

Organizations such as the EU can also facilitate communication and learning across national borders, and similar regions are learning from each other’s experiences through documents that highlight real examples of existing programs. For example, the EU provides guidance to local and regional authorities on best practices, EU initiatives and available funding for achieving EU 2020 goals (EU Committee of the Regions, 2012). Japan also facilitates cities’ actions towards sustainability and green growth by enhancing networking and peer learning4.

4. For details, see Eco Model Cities website ( and Future Cities Initiative website (

Case 5: International city and regions networks and sustainability

Transnational municipal networks started to emerge in the late 1980s but it was only from 1982 to 2004 that the number of sustainability-related city networks rose from 8 to 49 (Keiner and Kim, 2007), some working at the international level and others exclusively at the national level. The 1992 Rio Earth Summit was an important milestone in local action and sustainability and since then, many more networks and initiatives have flourished, including ICLEI’s Local Agenda 21 Campaign, UNDP’s Capacity 21 and UNEP/UN-Habitat’s Sustainable Cities program, Energy Cities, the World Mayors Council on Climate Change, C40 Cities, The Climate Group, the African Local Agenda 21 Cities, the Global Network of Regional Governments for Sustainable Development (nrg4SD), R20 – Regions of Climate Action, Covenant of Mayors, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG), Citynet, Metropolis, Eurocities, European Sustainable Cities Platform (ESCTC), the Climate Alliance Klima-Bündnis, the Alliance in the Alps (Allianz in den Alpen), the Union of the Baltic Cities (UBC), and EUROCITIES.

These networks are fulfilling a range of functions including:

  • Enabling subnational learning and action at the international level: International city and regions networks, in different scales and jurisdictions, are enabling subnational learning and action through international campaigns, programs and projects, twin-cities programs,  ‘city-to-city Cooperation’ (C2C), international and national events which connect leaders worldwide, share experiences and best practices and decentralize co-operation.
  • Enabling subnational learning and action with support from the national government and through national-city networks. National governments in many countries, such as Austria, Germany, Japan and Sweden, are supporting local action with publications, good practices reports, in-person and telephone consultation on funding programs, conferences, trainings, facilitation of networking and information events and general public relations.
  • Contributing to policy formulation and implementation. City and regions networks are fostering the integration of subnational and local actors into a multi-level governance system, bringing closer global challenges to citizens, decentralizing, and strengthening local authorities.
  • Fostering peer-learning and dissemination of best practices. Evidence shows that the rapid development of local sustainable development practices in Europe was in part due to the work of networks and support for their role with best practices dissemination. Over the past decades, such local networks have become effective and influential players, to some extent taking over the role of international organizations and national governments, by filling in gaps to expedite and advance sustainability (Keiner and Kim, 2007).
  • Different impact in each region and city. The programs developed by cities as part of the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) Campaign led by ICLEI differed in success and impacts between small local governments and global cities in delivering sustainable urban policies (Toly, 2008).

Moving from awareness to commitment, and then to action still remains a challenge for many local governments. There is still a need for more technical capacity and access to financial resources, as well as empowerment from national governments and in the international agenda. Multilevel governance and interaction is crucial. Linking the various networks and their respective efforts is important to avoid duplicated work and to identify areas for collective action.