Scholars like Ben Barber have suggested that cities provide the democratic culture to pragmatically problem-solve challenging policy issues – such as climate change. Many North American cities have announced ambitious goals to mitigate climate change, particularly the reduction of green house gases.
In her new book Repowering Cities: Governing Climate Change Mitigation in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto
(Cornell University Press, 2019). Sara Hughes
creatively combines the literature on cities with a comparative case study of three American cities to explore how New York, Los Angeles, and Toronto moved from making commitments to fulfilling them. She uses qualitative interviews, government reports, policy and program documents, newspaper articles, and climate data to demonstrate that climate change mitigation in large cities is underpinned by a common set of government strategies rather than any particular city characteristic or policy agenda. Her book identifies institution building, coalition building, and capacity building as the foundation for any effort to repower cities regardless of whether it is in the service of increasing solar power or energy conservation.
Our conversation includes discussion of Michael Bloomberg’s ambitious plan for NYC (and the puzzle of why he did not emphasize his success when running for president) and some thoughts on how the dense cities in this case study might deploy their institutions and leadership to address COVID-19.
Susan Liebell is associate professor of political science at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Democracy, Intelligent Design, and Evolution: Science for Citizenship (Routledge, 2013).