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Abstract

Discussions of city power have long focused on cities’ power relative to higher levels of government and to each other. The diffuse causes of climate change offer an opportunity to revisit the question of city power by focusing more closely on the intended object of influence. Although these two perspectives on power will at times overlap, they are not identical. If we consider greenhouse gas emissions as the target, cities can employ their relatively minor powers to substantial effect and many of them appear to be trying to do so. But consideration of cities’ climate change policies alters the usual analysis of city power further. While local government theorists have generally evaluated cities’ autonomy in terms of residents’ ability to shape their local community or their metropolitan region, municipal climate change policies aim to meaningfully contribute to resolution of a global problem. Although some elements of climate change plans may provide fiscal or other benefits that may make cities better providers of services to “consumer-voters” on a public choice model, many other elements cannot be explained other than recognizing these as efforts to engage their residents in a community building effort that encompasses the entire world. Perhaps Frug’s future vision for cities is already taking shape in the realm of local climate change policies, but on a grander vision of geographic interconnection than even he envisioned.

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