Much recent climate and energy policy analysis has emphasised the importance of the sub-national level to climate change mitigation as well as highlighting growing activity, for example in terms of ambitious climate target-setting. There has, thus far, been relatively little analysis on the role of local government in sustainable energy transitions which, given claims of their potential to enable change, suggests a need for further scholarship. This paper combines conceptual insights from political economy, urban environmental and local governance scholarship in order to explore in more detail what capacities local governments have to pursue (local) sustainable energy transitions. Up until quite recently, the consensus has been that local government has been limited in its capacities to act, being mainly confined to enabling rather than driving change, largely due to its subordinate position in relation to national and global institutions and interests. This presentation points to processes of change, namely devolution and shifts in energy systems and markets, that have implications for these understandings of limited local government capacities to pursue (often ambitious) sustainable energy policies. There will also be some discussion of the importance of concepts such as scale, ideas and learning to how we understand the changing capacities of (some) local government(s) to pursue local, sustainable energy strategies.
Caroline Kuzemko is an Assistant Professor in International Political Economy in the University of Warwick’s Politics and International Studies department. She currently holds an ESRC Future Research Leader grant for her project on ‘Power Distributions: Local Authorities, Sustainable Energy and Devolution’. From 2012 to 2016 she worked as a Senior Research Fellow in the University of Exeter’s Energy Policy Group on an EPSRC funded project ‘Innovation and Governance’ (IGov). Caroline has (co-)authored The Energy Security-Climate Nexus: Institutional Change in the UK and Beyond (2013) and co-authored The Global Energy Challenge: Environment, Development and Security (2016) (with Michael Keating and Andreas Goldthau). She has articles in the Review of International Studies, Journal of European Public Policy, Energy Research & Social Science, Environment and Planning: C and Policy and Politics. She is a Commissioner of the West Midlands Combined Authority’s Regional Energy Policy Commission and is an Associate Editor of Energy Research & Social Science.