Book review: Local Climate Change Law: Environmental Regulations in Cities and Other Localities


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Keywords: climate change, local government, sustainable development, North American environmental law, cities and climate change adaptation and mitigation

How are climate change law and policies implemented? There has been much discussion and a great deal has been written, including in this journal, about climate change. Many policies and increasing regulation have been implemented to deal with this difficult issue. Actual day-to-day, meaningful implementation, however, is beginning to be achieved at local level. This book, edited by Ben Richardson, Senior Canadian Research professor in Environmental Law and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, Canada, considers questions around climate change at local level. The 'local' refers to the role of local governments, municipalities and city authorities in dealing with climate change through law, as well as policies, plans, voluntary codes and associated methods of governance. It focuses on the role of public local authorities and does not examine the role of corporations, non-government organisations, community groups or other potential stakeholders in local climate action. However, both climate change mitigation (actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (measures to minimise the adverse impact of climate change) are considered in this text. The editor explains that efforts to deal with climate change increasingly recognise that, on the one hand, cities are significant hubs of economic activity and major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, but on the other hand, are also particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and heat island effects, due to their infrastructure and highly concentrated populations. Richardson points out, however, that municipal organisations that govern cities and other localities are well placed to address climate change. This was the premise and inspiration for this interesting and insightful research and publication.

The book flows from a workshop in British Columbia, Canada, in October 2011; therefore many of the chapters deal with North American, particularly Canadian, examples although some contrasting examples and global perspectives are included. The introductory chapter by Richardson not only provides a useful overview of the book, but also delivers a theoretical perspective of climate change law analysis at international, national and local levels. The chapter goes on to usefully consider the question: What is local government? It then sets out both optimistic and sceptical views of local climate action, before finally considering the issues around local government as a stakeholder in global climate law. This opening chapter is a refreshing examination of the potential for action at local level and sets an appropriate tone for the following case studies and discussions. It is followed by a chapter by Wood and Thompson, who analyse transnational voluntary climate change programmes developed by and for local governments. They compare these initiatives in terms of certain key variables that are likely to affect performance, examine what drives local government to join them and speculate on their likely effects. Together these two chapters provide an excellent context for the detailed case studies and discussions that follow.

The book is in three parts. Part 1, outlined above, is entitled Framework for Local Climate Change Law. Part II is Local Climate Action in North America. The final section, Part III provides the global perspective. Part II is the largest section and covers many examples of climate change law and policy in North America, but perhaps inevitably because the workshop which was pivotal for the creation of this book was held in British Columbia, there is a strong focus on Canada. Once again the introductory chapter provides a context for the rest of this section of the book. Chapter 3 is a broad overview of climate change action analysed from the theoretical perspective of'multi-level governance' in Canada and the USA. Pasternack starts by first identifying and then considering the impediments to local climate change law and action in North America. Ideas and mechanisms to reconcile patties and suggest a way forward are also discussed. The six chapters which follow deal with a diversity of issues and jurisdictions in North America, including suburban climate change initiatives in Minnesota; climate change policy making in Vancouver and measuring climate action in the same city; comparing a city's greenhouse gas emissions inventory protocol to the inventory of consumption. Municipal plans: what roles will cities play in climate change mitigation is considered in Chapter 5. Chapter 7 deals with climate governance at municipal level in Canada, by examining a case study of mitigation efforts in Halifax. The final chapter in Part II deals with the challenging topic of climate change policies: a comparative assessment of indigenous governance models in Canada.

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