Diversity of approaches, actors and instruments to drive progress


ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability

In the case studies selected, progress has been pioneered through a diversity of approaches, instruments and by involving various actors to respond to urban environmental challenges at the local level. Despite this diversity there are some important commonalities and conclusions that can be drawn; driving a vision requires political support and commitment; such drive is best institutionalized through, and interwoven with, respective bodies into a broader process; enabling framework conditions have to respond to drivers or be created for effective implementation; and any action and process needs to be cemented in public and private support.

It starts with a driver of change, who start, rally, envision, and take the first step in a longer journey towards urban sustainability. In the illustrated cases these have been visionary local leaders, local councils voting for ambitious targets, forward thinking government departments and citizens’, and stakeholders’ initiatives. In particular, local environmental departments or bureaus have shown to play a key role in setting a new sustainability agenda. Simultaneously the role of the community, civil society, and individuals should not be understated. They have elective power and often advocate for improvements. State and national governments play a relevant role, especially when providing incentives and legal framework conditions, which encourage pioneering and far-reaching local action.

Driving sustainability will be more successful when an individual community action is anchored to an organizational, institutional, or other administrative process (eg. case example: Iida’s citizen funded solar company collaboration with the local government). Institutionalization of sustainability through a department or other organizational structure, with a particular mandate, can systematize the drive towards urban sustainability. This is illustrated by the case of the Bureau of the Environment in Tokyo, the State of Veracruz’s Ministry of Environment, or Durban’s Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department. By further interweaving such bodies into a broader process initiatives that may appear small in significance can build up to a larger, more gravitating journey towards urban sustainability (as illustrated in selected case studies).

Local governments are recognized for their important role in responding to and creating enabling framework conditions for civil society and other actors to act more sustainably in a city. At the same time local governments also depend upon the enabling framework conditions set through higher tiers of government. In addition local governments need to keep cities econmically and socially viable and attractive places to live in.For urban sustainability action to be effectively implemented, policy, legislative and organizational change may often be necessary to keep up and address emerging and foreseen challenges and trends.

Examples for enabling institutional and legislative conditions as created by local governments include:

The variety of actors at each stage is one of the main reasons why stakeholder involvement is necessary and a key contributing factor for successful and effective action. The cases show LA21 principles in action and their evolution to make marked progress toward local and global sustainability. The principles articulated in the LA21 movement are re-affirmed as guiding principles for decision making in a myriad of guises, in a way that it suggests the principles have been absorbed into a general approach to urban governance. The spirit of the Earth Summit 1992 is still alive today and shows a progressive evolution in cities around the world.

Targeted and effective mechanisms depend upon up to date baselineinformation, which can include the assessment of a city’s energy situation and use (Thane, Tokyo), biodiversity hotspots and natural capital (Cape Town), climate change vulnerabilities (Toronto), greenhouse gas emissions inventories (Veracruz), economic advantages (Portland), or even on the availability of green services on the market (Reykjavik).

Through complementary and integrated policy and program packages, mechanisms can be more effective. This is illustrated with Tokyo’s Cap and Trade and Green Building programs for existing and new buildings respectively. Another is the citizen-funded renewable energy company in combination with public-private partnerships and legislative change (Iida).

Supra-local governance frameworks can provide very powerful means to enable and support local actions. These can be achieved for example through: a nationally driven, locally responsive incentive linked process (India’s JNNURM); amendment of higher tier governance acts and statutory reforms to enable local innovation (state laws for Melbourne to realize the Environmental Upgrade agreements);setting the super-local legislative and institutional frameworks (State of Veracruz climate change program); or simply recognizing a city’s improvements through an award (Nantes’ recognition by the European Commission’s Green Capital Award and quality of living marketing).

International actors, shown in selected cases, can provide support by providing upfront funding (funded study in Veracruz), training and technical expertise (Thane renewable campaigns), as well as opportunities for knowledge sharing (Reykjavik’s participation in sustainable procurement campaign). Organisations such as ICLEI, along with many others,have been influential in promoting local action by providing an international platform for knowledge and information sharing to encourage, provide confidence and ideas to act. Training, facilitating networking,city-to-city exchanges, research and pilot projects, as well as technical services,consultancy, software and tools all are important to capacitate and support local governments in achieving sustainable development in their cities and communities.

Local Sustainability 2012 Case study series: Showcasing progress in local sustainability

Published by :

In Partnership with :

  • Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind

  • United Nations Human Settlements Program UN-HABITAT

  • Study and editing team: Richard Simpson, Shay Kelleher, Monika Zimmermann, Rüdiger von Krosigk, Steven Bland (ICLEI World Secretariat, Bonn, Germany)


This case study series is part of the Local Sustainability 2012 study that consists of this publication and a global overview report (ICLEI 2012, Local Sustainability 2012: Taking stock and moving forward, Global Report).

To download both parts, visit local2012.iclei.org

ICLEI Case Studies 138-151 summarized in this Global Report are available in full length at www.iclei.org/casestudies.

ICLEI Global Reports are research and analytical reports produced by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability. By featuring different themes and characters the ICLEI Global Report series contributes to international discussions and policy developments.

ICLEI Global Reports are available at www.iclei.org/globalreports or in print for a cover fee.

En savoir plus

The cases are presented in alphabetical order by world region and country, but are not representative for that region. Rather the presented cases are a cross-collection of sustainability themes across the world from cities that can be considered pioneering and especially advanced within their regional culture. Also the selection attempted to feature not the usual suspects. They illustrate the diversity of approaches to highlight global progress in local sustainability in cities and by local governments. Each presented case showcases progress towards urban sustainability. Firstly by providing an overview of the locally identified challenge and response. Secondly, highlighting significant achievements and results. Thirdly, detailing the process and actors involved in the preparation and implementation, and finally, key factors for the city’s success.

To dowload the complete study : local2012.iclei.org/local-sustainability-study/