Investigating patterns of local climate governance: how low-carbon municipalities and intentional communities intervene into social practices

Hausknost, Daniel, Haas, Willi, Hielscher, Sabine, Schaefer, Martina, Leitner, Michaela, Kunze, Iris and Mandl, Sylvia (2018) Investigating patterns of local climate governance: how low-carbon municipalities and intentional communities intervene into social practices. Environmental Policy and Governance, 28 (6). pp. 371-382. ISSN 1756-932X

[img] PDF - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (647kB)
[img] PDF - Accepted Version
Restricted to SRO admin only

Download (896kB)


The local level has gained prominence in climate policy and governance in recent years as it is increasingly perceived as privileged arena for policy experimentation and social and institutional innovation. Yet, the success of local climate governance in industrialised countries has been limited so far. One reason may be that local communities focus too much on strategies of technology-oriented ecological modernisation (EM) and individual behaviour change and too little on strategies that target unsustainable social practices and their embeddedness in complex patterns of practices. In this paper we assess and compare the strategies of ‘low-carbon municipalities’ (top-down initiatives) and those of ‘intentional communities’ (bottom-up initiatives). We are interested to find out to what extent and in which ways each community type intervenes in social practices to curb carbon emissions and to explore the scope for further and deeper interventions on the local level. Employing an analytical framework based on social practice theory we identify characteristic patterns of intervention for each community type. We find that low-carbon municipalities face tenacious difficulties in transforming carbon-intensive social practices. While offering some additional low-carbon choices, their ability to reduce carbon-intensive practices is very limited. Their focus on efficiency and individual choice shows little transformative potential. Intentional communities, by contrast, have more institutional and organisational options to intervene into the web of social practices. Finally, we explore to what extent low-carbon municipalities can learn from intentional communities and propose strategies of hybridisation for policy innovation to combine the strengths of both models.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: local climate governance; social practice theory; intentional communities; low-carbon municipalities; policy innovation
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Sabine Hielscher
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2018 13:44
Last Modified: 02 Jul 2019 13:21

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update