Global and Local: Climate Change Policies as a Paradigm of Multilevel Governance

Susana Galera

Abstract European energy policies based on energy savings and the promotion of renewables are still the main components of the most recent and ambitious climate policies. However, a distinctive key element of the current approaches is that the objectives they pursue cannot be achieved without decisive intervention by sub-state political and administrative levels, particularly the local ones. The most recent European energy and climate regulations are insistently referring specific actions to the achievement of the set goals that inescapably have to be pursued at the local level—for example, Heating and cooling energy districts or the design of infrastructures that must withstand the distributed generation or the utilization of residual heat.

Climate Change Goals Call for Deep Institutional Adaptation

The mitigation of human impacts on climate change that no one questions anymore is the goal of varied international strategies, which are reinforced in parallel to the progressive manifestation of their effects. The European Union has been trying to reduce its energy consumption since the 80s of the last century, initially for reasons of security and economy, given its high external dependence. Afterwards, it has been insisting on these objectives adding as well environmental considerations. Working in such way the European energy Policy has been set addressed to the reduction of energy consumption, the increase of renewable energies in the energy mix and the reduction of emissions.

Beyond the current 20-20-20 Strategy1 the EU has already (2011) outlined a much more ambitious approach in terms of objectives and timeframes: its 2050

1Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive development, COM (2010) 2020, 3 March 2010. [1]

Energy Roadmap envisages not only a de-carbonized economy but also a gradual energy transition having in the end the very change of the own energy model. The final goal is the replacement of the current vertical model of production, transport and distribution centrally managed by a model of distributed generation and intelligent management based on the producer/consumer (prosumer) as its main actor connected in a mega-grid. Considering the huge investment that necessarily requires the renewal of aging energy infrastructures from 2020 and on,[2] such financial efforts are now also addressed to achieve a cleaner, more efficient and more accessible energy model.

The success of both the Energy Strategy and the climate policies mainly involves local governments, since urban areas account for more than half of the world’s population (60% in 2030 according to World Bank estimates), 70% of global energy consumption and account for 40-50% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Here we want to consider the coexistence of two perspectives: on the one hand, and from a factual point of view, the actions that in a global context are already shaping climate policies at the local level; On the other hand, and from a formal point of view, the legal and institutional framework that will discipline the action of local entities in this context.

This approach illustrates recent and successive conceptions of international relations—para-diplomacy, urban diplomacy, federative diplomacy (Setze 2015)— which seriously challenge the classic legal discourse, still echoing in the law classrooms, conferring the ius legationis and the ius contrahendi to the State in the international sphere in an exclusive manner. Contrary to it, the State has lost that exclusivity in favor of the emergence of other entities also playing in the international arena, which is particularly evident in environmental and, more recently, climate governance.

Setting aside the long-term climate strategies (2050), and taking now into account the current environmental and energy governance, it has to be underlined that there is a lack of correspondence between factual requirements and management rules, between what is required by an efficient environmental an energy governance and the legal and institutional framework in which it is supposed to be developed. Particularly, we will address the following issues:

  • - First, and even in the absence of a specific legal basis (attribution powers), the EU has been developing Urban Policies, the Urban Acquis, laying on other Community provisions;
  • - Secondly, it has also developed local climate policies, based both on sectoral determinations and on non-legally binding models linked to financing instruments;
  • - Thirdly, Local entities have acquired in these strategies a growing visibility and responsibility, which goes far beyond the limited role attributed to them.

The EU has already assumed the leading role played by local authorities in some of its policies, notably those of climate and energy, reinforcing them on the basis of a twofold approach: on the one hand, establishing mechanisms for direct dialogue with cities, as will be explained later; On the other hand, reinforcing the international action of the local entities, actively supporting its international partnership and associations and the standards, instruments and models that are agreed upon, which are later implemented at the local level.

  • [1] Galera (H) Public Law Department, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spaine-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it © Springer International Publishing AG 2017 R. Alvarez Fernandez et al. (eds.), Carbon Footprint and the Industrial Life Cycle,Green Energy and Technology, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-54984-2_13
  • [2] In the Roadmap for Energy 2050 [COM (2011) 885, p. 3], the Commission explained theambition of its strategy, namely that “a new investment cycle will be opened in that decade (2020),while energy infrastructures built 30 or 40 years ago will need to be renewed”. The costs of theenergy transition do not differ substantially from these renovation costs. According to theEuropean Investment Plan [COM (2014) 903], investment in generation, networks and energyefficiency is estimated at EUR 200 billion annually in the coming decades.
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