The Capacity of Local Government to Support Community Carbon Reduction: Case Studies from Australia, England and Germany

By Cathryn Hamilton.

Published by The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability

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The absence of coordinated international leadership for agreed targets for carbon reduction and, in Australia, a lack of policy direction at the national level, provides an opportunity for local government (LG) to lead its community in mitigating climate change. Qualitative data has been collected from staff of eight LG authorities across three countries which are high per capita carbon emitters in their geographic regions: Australia, England and Germany. The actual and ideal action for LG to take has been analysed using a capacity to act matrix developed by Hammer (Columbia University) which defines five mayoral levers that LG can use to influence energy services. The results of this analysis indicate that ideally LG should be maximising the use of renewable energy across its community, but funding and a lack of political will by higher levels of government to support LG policy are key barriers. One area of LG responsibility is implementing planning policy that enhances the uptake of renewable energy. Planning policy maps to the mayoral lever of ‘rule making’. LG in Australia lags behind the English and German cases in the use of planning policy to enhance the uptake of renewable energy in new residential development. However it provides information to its community, seeks to lead by example, procures ‘green’ energy, upgrades council facilities for energy efficiency and installs renewable energy collection systems on its own buildings where it has funds to do so. Innovative mechanisms, such as bulk purchasing of solar photovoltaic systems on behalf of its residents, are also being explored. The capacity of Australian LG to develop planning policy may increase through reviewing the policy adopted by LG elsewhere. Enhancing the political will however requires an engaged community and emphasises the importance of community governance.

Keywords: Climate Change Mitigation, Metropolitan Governance, Low-Carbon Urban Development, Capacity to Act, Renewable Energy, Planning policy

The International Journal of Environmental Sustainability, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.25-41. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 606.485KB).

Dr Cathryn Hamilton

PhD Candidate, Course Coordinator and Research Associate, School of Natural & Built Environments, University of South Australia, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cathryn has more than 20 years experience in environmental management for the South Australian Government. She currently teaches in the School of Natural and Built Environments at University of South Australia in Adelaide, Australia and conducts research on climate change adaptation and mitigation for the Barbara Hardy Institute at University of South Australia. She is also a member of the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board. Cathryn has qualifications in science, management and urban and regional planning, and her PhD Thesis, submitted in April 2011 analyses the capacity for local government to support community carbon reduction and climate change governance at the local level.