Governing pathways to decarbonisation: a case study of carbon neutral Adelaide partnerships

Author: Grace Elizabeth Andrews

Andrews, Grace Elizabeth, 2020 Governing pathways to decarbonisation: a case study of carbon neutral Adelaide partnerships, Flinders University, College of Science and Engineering

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Australian cities account for the majority of the country’s population and greenhouse gas emissions and are expected to experience the negative impacts of climate change the most severely. However, the economy remains locked into carbon, and the Federal government remains unwilling to implement coordinated and systemic climate policies for reducing carbon emissions to a safer level. As a result, municipal governments are playing a more critical role in urban climate governance with help from state governments and non-state actors to combat climate change from the bottom-up. A political strategy gaining popularity with municipal governments for urban climate governance is the carbon neutral city. Adelaide city, South Australia is one example where an Australian municipality has adopted such a strategy. Here, City leaders have set an ambitious target of being one of the world’s first carbon neutral cities by 2025. This research uses Carbon Neutral Adelaide as a case study to critically investigate how municipal governments and non-state actors are effectively or ineffectively governing urban climate change. A conceptual model is used to measure the effectiveness of governing Carbon Neutral Adelaide through three political mechanisms: 1) normalisation, 2) capacity building, and 3) coalition building. A mixed-methods approach was applied to test whether the partnerships and networks created between the City of Adelaide and non-state actors improve the governance of Carbon Neutral Adelaide. Policy documents on Carbon Neutral Adelaide, and seventeen semi-structured interviews with stakeholders across the public sector, private sector, and civil society were collected. Both data sets underwent content and discourse analysis. The results showed that partnerships and climate action networks are assisting the City of Adelaide in providing political leverage and technical support for a low-carbon economy. However, the City of Adelaide has limited capacity and resources for effectively engaging with these partners, and there are many missed opportunities for decarbonising Adelaide collectively. Furthermore, a change in political leadership for local and state governments has stalled the momentum towards carbon neutrality. It is recommended that the City of Adelaide amends its partnership with the Government of South Australia to re-align their goals and set new targets. There is also potential for the City of Adelaide to engage with stakeholders in the private sector and civil society for deliberative and collaborative governance of carbon neutral initiatives.

Keywords: urban climate governance, carbon neutral city, low-carbon transitions, multilevel governance, network governance, partnerships, and climate action networks

Subject: Environmental management thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2020
School: College of Science and Engineering
Supervisor: Gerti Szili