Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Mayors As Policy Entrepreneurs: Does Social Capital Encourage Climate Change Policies at the City Level?

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 1:45 PM
Gautier (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Nives Dolsak, University of Washington; University of Ljubljana
Mayors are important policy actors at the city level. What encourages them to take political risks, especially when the costs are concentrated and benefits are diffused? This paper examines how various types of social capital influence city-level climate change policies, specifically, participation in in the Covenants of Mayor Program (COM)? Launched by the European Commission in 2008, this is a voluntary program which seeks to involve “local and regional authorities, voluntarily committing to increasing energy efficiency and use of renewable energy sources.” Scholars emphasized that social capital provides the foundation for collective action, such as climate change policy adoption. We offer a multi-method study of Slovenia in this context.

Would then social capital influence climate change entrepreneurship in a transitional Central European country where community efforts outside the Communist party have been historically discouraged? Of the 200 municipalities in Slovenia, 31 municipalities have joined COM, accounting for 62 percent of urban population in Slovenia (31 percent of population when excluding the capital city). What explains this city-level variation? This is an important issue given the budgetary problems cities face and multiple demands the mayors have to negotiate? What might motivate mayors to invest in a voluntary program which may not bring any immediate and short run benefits and yet is likely to impose short term costs?

Empirically, with a municipality-year as a unit of analysis, I examine decisions of mayors to join COM since its establishment in 2008. I examine how different types of social capitals motivate citizen participation and their impact on decisions of mayors to join COM, controlling for other social forces, such as organizational and economic factors. I employ mixed methods approach. First, working with an original, micro-level dataset, the statistical analyses examine the impact of social capitals generated via the common Catholic religion, common native language, and membership in non-governmental environmental organizations (such as hunters and mountaineering clubs). Second, I use interviews with a selected number of mayors to get in-depth information about their decision process. Two implications emerge. First, some types of social capital can motivate climate change entrepreneurship even in countries with nascent non-governmental organizations.  Second, different social capitals vary in their deployability to further climate change entrepreneurship.