Global Environmental Governance: The Role of Local Governments

In his widely read and much appreciated think piece on global environmental governance, Konrad Otto-Zimmermann engages with the question of how the governance framework needs to be designed for genuinely sustainable development to be possible. 

One common approach when this matter is discussed is to look at what kind of institutions we have today and how they can be improved. Konrad Otto-Zimmermann argues that we should do it the other way around. We should look not merely at what it is politically feasible to achieve today but at what the world of 2050 needs. If we want to live in a sustainable world in 2050, what kind of governance framework do we then need to set up today? 

Looking at the actual needs of the planet ensures that we remain goal oriented. It also leads to the realization that relying exclusively on international conferences where national governments can agree to non-binding commitments may not be enough to get to where we need to be in 2050. 

With this in mind, the capacity to act held by cities and local governments becomes important. Cities have the power to implement new initiatives, and are in many parts of the world far more ambitious in their environmental work than the national level. At the same time, cities consume much of the world’s resources and have a disproportionate environmental footprint. A new framework for global environmental governance should harness local governments’ capacity and willingness to act to help solve the problems they are causing.

Original article published at

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