Municipal Involvement in Climate Protection: Local Decision Making and Policy Innovation

EPA Grant Number: FP917163
Title: Municipal Involvement in Climate Protection: Local Decision Making and Policy Innovation
Investigators: Krause, Rachel Marie
Institution: Indiana University - Bloomington
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: August 31, 2010 through August 30, 2013
Project Amount: $111,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2010) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Science & Technology for Sustainability: Environmental Behavior & Decision Making


Three broad questions warrant examination from research examining the phenomena of voluntary local involvement in climate protection: (1) What actions are municipal governments taking to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions? (2) Why are municipal governments becoming involved in climate protection and what explains variation in the type and extent of their actions? and (3) What impacts do/can local efforts have on GHG emissions?


In the face of federal inaction and in apparent defiance of free-rider logic, over 1,000 local governments in the U.S. have voluntarily committed to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions emanating from their jurisdictions. This research undertakes a data collection effort on the climate protection actions implemented by U.S. cities with populations over 50,000 in order to address what cities are doing in this regard, why they are becoming involved, and what impact local actions have on net emissions.


A significant data gap exists regarding the type and extent of GHG reducing initiatives employed by municipal governments. Therefore, the initial step of this research involves a significant data collection effort. A web-based survey will be sent directly to the local government employee identified as in charge of environmental or sustainability programs in the 665 cities in the United States with populations over 50,000. The survey identifies the ways that municipal policy or programs can reduce GHG emissions and asks about local participation in each. Assuming a response rate of 50 percent, data from approximately 330 cities will be obtained. This data informs a 24-item index quantifying the extent of local climate protection in each municipality and serves as a basis to answer the study’s three primary research questions. Cluster analysis, regression analysis, and stochastic simulations will be the primary statistical methodologies employed.

Expected Results:

Expected results of the research are based on the outcome of a pilot study conducted in the state of Indiana. Although less than half of the pilot study cities use climate protection as an explicit frame, all are involved in some GHG-reducing activities. Considerable variation was found in the frequency of the use of different types of policy instruments. The direct provision of services, which enable the public to reduce GHG emissions, was a favored instrument, and incentive-based instruments were employed least often. Models of local decision-making which operationalize policy demand (e.g., interest group and risk-perception) explain observed variation in municipal climate protection better than supply models (e.g. government capacity, fiscal constraints, and policy entrepreneurs). The pilot study results may or may not preview the results of the proposed research, which will consider larger cities across the country.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection:

Sub-national climate protection efforts are receiving increasing attention and support despite relatively little being known about their potential scope or ultimate effectiveness. This is particularly true of municipal GHG mitigation actions where a lack of widespread data has had the effect of focusing attention on a handful of largely unrepresentative cities. By collecting information on the type and extent of GHG reduction activities from a large number of cities, a more accurate picture can be formed about the effectiveness, drivers and obstacles of municipal climate protection. Ultimately, this research will be able to inform the decisions of policy makers at all levels of government as they try to design the best possible set of policies to mitigate human-induced climactic change.

Supplemental Keywords:

local climate protection, policy, municipal decision making,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2011
  • 2012
  • Final