Climate change actions in cities worldwide are driving deep changes in urban governance. We ask whether new capacities for transformative climate governance are emerging in two cities that have experimented with urban climate governance: Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and New York City (NYC), United States. Transformative climate governance creates the conditions for developing integrated and innovative climate mitigation and adaptation policies and interventions that respond to and shape urban transformation dynamics and contribute to sustainability and resilience. The comparison of capacities for transformative climate governance in Rotterdam and NYC offers insights into the emerging features of urban climate governance vis-à-vis existing urban governance regimes: how urban climate governance is driven and delivered, what new governance conditions emerge, and whether these conditions enable transformative climate governance. In both cities, an integrated, experimental and inclusive approach to climate governance is emerging, which crosses multiple policy sectors and domains (e.g. transport, energy, health, justice), involves a variety of actors and facilitates innovative solutions. Envisioning, long-term goal and knowledge integration, experimentation and tapping into coalitions for change help to provide the basis (including guiding principles, urgency, actor networks, innovative solutions) for transformative climate governance. However, these transformative approaches tend to be still subordinate to business-as-usual interests and policy and planning approaches, which favour isolated, incremental and short-term responses. The challenge for strengthening transformative climate governance will be to develop rigorous institutional and organisational conditions that decisively stipulate a prioritisation of climate change across scales and sectors, provide action mandates and enable wider coordination, collaboration and learning.

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Journal of Environmental Management
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Hölscher, K., Frantzeskaki, N., McPhearson, T., & Loorbach, D. (2019). Tales of transforming cities: Transformative climate governance capacities in New York City, U.S. and Rotterdam, Netherlands. Journal of Environmental Management, 231, 843–857. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.10.043