To read this content please select one of the options below:

US environmental governance and local climate change mitigation policies: California's story

Lauren C. Heberle (University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA)
Isabella M. Christensen (University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 19 April 2011




The purpose of this paper is to investigate local climate change mitigation planning in California with the goal of understanding how the relationships between the state, the local air agencies, and the localities within their jurisdictions shape the willingness and capacity of local communities to plan for climate change mitigation through greenhouse gas emissions reduction.


The research: analyses documents relating to localities' climate change mitigation planning activities, including the production of action plans, general plan elements, emissions inventories, or official resolutions supporting mitigation planning, establishment of partnerships with other governmental and non‐governmental organizations, and development of community input processes and planning committee membership and structure. It also involves measurement and descriptive analysis of variables capturing: local air agencies' institutional character, orientation regarding climate change policymaking, and mitigation planning activities and programs; and localities' mitigation planning processes and policies, institutional and demographic characteristics, and relationships with other sub‐state entities working on climate change mitigation.


Intergovernmental partnerships can powerfully impact localities' technical and financial capacities for pursuing climate change mitigation planning. This exploratory study points to the potential for strong leadership by air quality control agencies to greatly influence the decision of localities within their jurisdictions to engage in voluntary mitigation planning. Furthermore, decentralized collaboration does not prevent, and may encourage, policy harmonization through localities' widespread reliance on the technical assistance from specialized non‐governmental organizations.

Practical implications

Findings might enable advocates of local‐level climate change mitigation planning to target their resources for maximal returns in terms of geographic policy coverage and pledged GHG emissions reductions. Theoretically, this study contributes to discussions on the relationship between the quality of policy outputs and various forms of environmental governance.


Climate change mitigation planning in the USA is in a formative stage. In fact, the authors found that even the California Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) must work continuously and with imperfect data to compile a list of the state's local‐level mitigation planning efforts. This study contributes to the growing body of knowledge of local planning policy innovations in California and highlights the importance of leadership from the regional scale for city‐level engagement with mitigation planning.



Heberle, L.C. and Christensen, I.M. (2011), "US environmental governance and local climate change mitigation policies: California's story", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 317-329.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles