Best Practice Report


1. Introduction

It is increasingly recognized that enabling green growth requires action at both national and subnational level (UNDP, 2009). Many significant public policies and programs, about transport, land use planning, infrastructure, waste management, and energy production are made at local level. Local authorities may have greater opportunities for policy innovation in developing tailored solutions and identifying policy complementarities between ‘green’ and ‘growth’ objectives. For example, the rapid growth of cities creates opportunities to address economic and environmental goals simultaneously (OECD, 2012).

In 2013, 110 city governments reported to the Carbon Disclosure Project (a 50% increase from 2012), with over 90% stating that climate change presents economic opportunities, and 70% reporting that they have a plan for adapting to the effects of climate change (CDP, 2013). Over 400 local governments have reported on climate actions to the Cities Climate Registry; registering 4000 actions up to 2020 (Cities Climate Registry, 2013).

Two examples of subnational governments known globally for their strong green growth policies, for example, are the State of California and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. California’s green regulations have gone ahead of federal measures, with state-wide emission reduction targets established in 2005 and incorporated into law with enforceable penalties. These have been complimented by measures to enable green technology growth, including the California Solar Initiative and the Hydrogen Highways Network. In Tokyo, the Metropolitan Government introduced a mandatory Green Building rating system for large new buildings and launched the world’s first urban cap-and-trade program (Tokyo Metropolitan Government, 2010). The Tokyo Metropolitan Government states that it “is paving the way for the commitment of the central government of Japan to the implementation of a nationwide cap-and-trade program” (Tokyo Metropolitan Government, 2010).

The impact of subnational action can be substantial. In the United States for example, recent evidence suggests that with ambitious state action, the country can meet its commitment to reduce global warming pollution by at least 17 % below 2005 levels by 2020 even if federal action is limited. The fact that such a national commitment could be made is largely due to the existence of state-level instruments and programs that would contribute to the national target. However, if federal effort is extremely poor, states will be hampered in their efforts and unable to achieve the aggregate goal (Bianco et al., 2013).

The emergence of the green growth agenda for local government is often linked with two other important trends: (i) decentralization of power from subnational to national governments to local authorities, and (ii) internationalization of subnational actions through, for example, enhancing co-operation between cities and regions. As Andonova and Mitchell (2010) state, “Global environmental politics and governance have been rescaled vertically down toward provincial and municipal governments and up toward supranational regimes.” Nonetheless, in many parts of the globe, green growth action at the subnational level is not yet underway, or is undermined by national policy frameworks. Advancing governance of climate change and environment across all levels of government is therefore crucial to avoid policy gaps, and to encourage learning between relevant departments or institutions in national and local government (Corfee-Morlot et al, 2009).

National governments have two clear roles to play in enabling subnational governments to achieve their potential for advancing green growth. The first is to create favorable environments for subnational action; and the second is to integrate national and subnational actions to improve coherence, promote learning, and exploit synergies. This chapter explores: how national green growth objectives can be achieved more effectively through enhanced and integrated subnational actions.

In this chapter we address the following two sub-questions:

  • Enabling subnational actions: What are the effective approaches that enable green growth delivery at the subnational level and across different layers of government?
  • Integrating subnational actions: What practices are most effective for integrating national and subnational green growth actions?

The chapter identifies establishing incentives, setting targets, and providing resources for capacity building as key enabling roles for national government, and joint action and dialogue as the key means for integrating national and subnational action.

The assessment of cases in this chapter is based on a review of experiences documented in research reports, case studies, and other literature. While much of the available literature focuses only on climate change, efforts are made to identify literature with a broader green growth focus as far as possible. Cases for analysis are carefully selected from sources that clearly document the policy instruments and that consider the roles of sub-national and national governments. A geographic balance is also considered. For some cases, interviews are used to obtain additional information.

A case assessment framework was used consistently to evaluate impact, efficiency, and robustness of each case. Impact was assessed in a number of ways, including the number of new rules and frameworks adopted, the number of cities/states engaged, the number of policy targets being met, the number of green jobs created, and the level of greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Efficiency refers to the adoption of plans or policies within a specified time frame, or even ahead of schedule or the implementation of projects or programs with efficient use of financial and human resources. Robustness refers to stakeholder alignment and durability of the institutional arrangements to support green growth.


What do we mean by subnational integration?

Subnational governments refers to all administrative sub-divisions below the nation state, this includes inter alia states, regions, provinces, counties, and cities. The term ‘integration’ refers to improved coherence between the policies and goals of national and subnational governments.We identify three key modes of action through which national and subnational governments interact in practice, to advance green growth:

  • Subnational implementation of national policy. Where policies or targets are set at the national level, but implemented by cities, states and other local authorities.
  • Independent subnational action promoted by national action. Where national frameworks support or encourage local authorities that are taking green growth steps through their own mandates as policy-makers, investors, and developers – for example through compact city policies and public transport investment.
  • Subnational action informing and inspiring national action. Where ideas, lessons, and policies demonstrated by individual local authorities are scaled-up nationwide.