How can subnational governments best integrate climate change considerations across policy areas? Which factors contribute to successful integration?
With a specific focus on transport, spatial planning policies, and energy and water in selected cases located at the border of the Alpine region between Italy and Austria, this volume shows that coordination (vertical and horizontal), public participation and information, leadership, and dedicated funding play fundamental and interlinked roles in climate change policy integration.
Federica Cittadino is a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Comparative Federalism, Eurcac Research, Bolzano.
Louisa Parks is professor at the School of International Studies and at the Department of Sociology and Social Research of the University of Trento.
Peter Bußjäger is professor at the Department of Public Law, State and Administrative Sciences of the University of Innsbruck.
Francesca Rosignoli is Postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Public Law at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Spain
From Part 4, Conclusion (pagg. 276-279)
Concluding Remarks and Additional Research Avenues
This study demonstrates a strong correlation between the five dimensions of coordination, participation, information, leadership, and funding with cpi. In particular, dedicated coordination mechanisms, leadership at subnational level, dedicated funding, a sufficient degree of information, and more participation in both policy-making and implementation mechanisms with increased clarity on how suggestions are incorporated into final documents are deemed to play a particularly significant role in cpi.
Although all of these factors are necessary to achieve cpi, they are not in themselves sufficient to trigger increased cpi. This is due to two main reasons. First, the quality of cpi ultimately depends on the quality of the processes put in place to create coordination, participation, and information. Second, all factors seem to be intertwined with one another and mutually constitutive.
Concerning the quality of process, the existence of a functioning structure (for instance, climate coordination units within the administration, mandatory participation processes with information campaigns targeted to different groups) is essential for creating the environment, or so to say the culture that is more conducive to cpi. Participation is in this sense perhaps the most nuanced factor: it is important (although not always sufficient) for legitimacy, but there are clear wishes for it to be more substantive that are also linked to critical comments about scope and inclusivity, the role of organized actors, and more.
Structure is certainly a strong determinant also when it comes to leadership and funding. For the former, procedures to prioritize climate change in policymaking appear to be necessary to operationalize leadership. Furthermore, stable coordination units guarantee cpi over time (infra). Concerning the latter, dedicated budget lines would ensure more planning capacity and enable more public control.
While coordination seems to be equally important for both policy-making and implementation, the relevance of the factors described may change depending on the stages of the policy process. Participation is more established in policy-making but our study demonstrates that it should play a stronger role in policy implementation. This would allow the concerned public both to understand the extent to which their proposals in decision-making have been translated into applicable standards and to make sure that these standards are followed up. In both respects, proactive information campaigns become crucial, because it is extremely difficult to judge implementation solely on the basis of information available on institutional websites. Leadership, instead, seems to be more relevant to policy-making, for instance in the case of Vorarlberg, which operationalized its declaration of a climate emergency with the institutionalization of a preventive climate check of proposed laws/acts. Funding is certainly more critical when it comes to policy implementation.
Regarding the connections existing among factors, these are multiple. The dimensions described are so interlinked with one another that they create an almost inextricable web in the contexts analyzed. Some examples of bilateral links are useful to illustrate this point.
1) Vertical coordination and leadership: the existence of coordination among levels may promote the diffusion of policy innovations adopted at subnational level, thereby enhancing subnational leadership with respect to the other governance levels. This has occurred in a very limited way in the case studies.
2) Horizontal coordination and leadership: more structure for horizontal coordination (either dedicated agencies in Italy or more resources and more clarity on their mandate in general) may lead to enhanced leadership, intended as the capacity of coordinating units to effectively influence policy-making in climate-related sectors. Furthermore, more leadership, intended as the level of commitment of single officers, may lead to more established practices of informal coordination. In this sense, a critical point is that horizontal coordination and leadership in the case studies are too dependent on individuals, and cannot be guaranteed over time in the absence of dedicated mechanisms.
3) Horizontal coordination and participation: coordination is necessary for participation, in that participation in the case studies was most commonly envisaged for the elaboration of broad strategies that require cross-sectoral coordination.
4) Information and participation: the former should precede the latter since full, prior, and undisclosed information is a prerequisite for any successful public participation process. A critical point in this respect is represented in the case studies by the presence of information asymmetries between the administration and subjects who would like to take part in public decision-making, thus hindering participation.
5) Leadership and information/participation: a good level of public information leading to a good level of participation has repercussions on leadership, since well-informed citizens are able to act as the watchdog of public decision-makers using the information at their disposal as a parameter to check on the adoption of climate policies, demand more climate action, and, ultimately, steer leadership. In this sense, imbalances in participation, that is the fact that some actors (mostly organized ones) are more able (or even the only ones authorized) to intervene in public decision-making, may have different effects on the capacity of public authorities to take the leadership in climate protection. Even subjects excluded from the institutional channels of participation, however, such as usually youth in the case studies, may have a way to influence policy-making and leadership through social movements, such as Fridays for Future. Whether political and administrative leaders reacting to cso s and civic movements’ requests is an expression of their leadership is deemed contentious by some commentators, since civic movements are expressions of their own leadership.57 Indeed, uncovering the influence that civic movements’ leadership has on cpi was not part of this research, since civic movements are never the only players seeking to shape climate policy or any policy.58 That is why this book focuses instead on how the political and administrative leadership of institutional figures influences policy-making in climate matters and cpi.
6) Participation and coordination: the level of integration of expert opinions in public decision-making that is achieved though consultation enhances the capacity of sectoral policy officers to understand the importance of cpi, and therefore of more established cross-sectoral coordination.
7) Funding and all dimensions: funding is linked to coordination because structure needs dedicated funding; it is connected to participation, because this needs large-scale information campaigns and the overcoming of participation barriers that require public investment; it is related to leadership, both because visions need means to be implemented and because more transparent climate-budgets would allow for more public scrutiny.
The web of dimensions leads us to discuss some important cross-context findings. It emerges from all case studies that a long-term culture of participation does not mean anything on its own but needs to be backed up by structures (coordination and information above), which alone can ensure the quality of the participatory processes and therefore the relevance of participation for cpi. Another cross-context finding concerns the overarching importance of transparency, and therefore of information, for public budgets to be more predictable for policy-makers and accessible to the public, and as said for ensuring the quality of participatory processes. Finally, the importance of EU leadership, groupings, and funding opportunities for cpi is extremely clear regardless of context.
Are these findings applicable in other contexts? First, the conclusions discussed are relevant within the context of the case studies mainly for mitigation policies, but can give some guidance to policy-makers when developing or implementing urgently needed adaptation policies. Second, although the peculiarity of this research lies in the fine-grained level of the analysis, so that even the study of different Italian regions and Austrian Länder may give different results on specific dimensions, the same research questions and factors could be used to approach the issue of cpi in different study areas and systems of decentralized policy-making. The reflections on processes and structure made above are therefore suited to being extended to different contexts. An interesting issue to discuss in different contexts could be the relative importance of factors/dimensions, which in the cases analyzed in this book did not emerge as particularly crucial. In order to this point, however, a discussion on the effectiveness of cpi and how to evaluate it would be necessary.
It is undisputable that cpi needs to be studied further at the subnational level, since the intricacies of effectively achieving climate protection are embedded within these systems. This public endeavor is more urgent than ever and requires institutional and non-institutional actors at all levels to act in a collaborative way.
Open access book published under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 licence.