Power and capacity in local climate governance: Comparing English and German municipalities

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper, which is based on fieldwork research in the comparable 'twin towns' of Newcastle and Gelsenkirchen, compares how the municipalities in these cities have worked with other actors to increase their capacity in climate policy-making. Drawing in particular on theories of resource dependency in intergovernmental relations (Rhodes 1981) and urban governance (Stone 1989), it introduces a new model for mapping vertical and horizontal power relationships at the subnational level. By applying this model to the empirical cases, it identifies how central-local relations in England are looser than those in Germany, and how this results in weaker municipal institutions. This has meant that Newcastle Council has had to rely more on local stakeholders to achieve its objectives when compared to Gelsenkirchen, and has also reduced its ability to exert hierarchical authority over other bodies. Such findings have significant implications for proponents of ‘localism’, since they suggest that greater independence for municipal governments could strengthen societal actors at the expense of the local state. This might result in policies reflecting the private (rather than the public) interest, thereby increasing concerns about democratic accountability. They also suggest that critics of the opaque and bureaucratic nature of ‘joint-decision’ systems should consider what the potential alternative might entail: a weaker state that has less capacity for co-ordinated action and is more reliant on private actors in policy-making processes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Paper presented to the annual conference of the European Consortium for Political Research in Prague, Czech Republic.


  • local government
  • climate change
  • power dependency
  • England
  • Germany

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