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

Panel Paper: The Diffusion of Climate Protection Approaches Across U.S. Cities with Distinct Greenhouse Gas Emissions Profile Types

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:15 AM
Board Room (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

J.C. Martel and Rachel Krause, University of Kansas
Greenhouse gas inventories have a specific and substantive purpose for advancing city sustainability. The purpose of an inventory is to provide a snapshot of a community’s emissions, serve as an aggregated baseline for policy and program evaluations, and inform a discussion on the community’s climate change mitigation planning. Inventories are an important foundation for the development and evaluation of policy activities. An assessment of the results of available inventories enables patterns to be identified and may inform the selection of policy actions and targets effective for cities with a range of emission profiles.

The development and use of greenhouse gas inventories by cities as a means of pursuing climate protection represents a diffusion of procedural innovations. This diffusion of inventory procedures has the potential to result in standardized data across cities. However, that potential has not been achieved because, although the basic procedure has spread, there is considerable variation in its application.  The literature suggests multiple mechanisms for diffusion and favors learning over forms, including imitation, as the preferable means for adopting innovation from other jurisdictions. Learning involves the application and customization of lessons taken from other locales and generally results in better outcomes. A perception of mutual exclusivity between imitation and learning sets up a dilemma for proponents of local climate protection initiatives, who seek standardization in data collection and presentation but promote customization in policy action. Cities have different emissions profiles and diverse types of cities may be best served by utilizing dissimilar procedures and climate protection actions. 

In this paper we run a cluster analysis on the sources of cities’ emissions to see what emissions bundles emerge and what “types” of cities are associated with each bundle. Standardized data on the amount and sources of local emissions are obtained from U.S. cities that have a publically available emissions inventory using a data extraction method designed to overcome the barrier of the unstandardized inventory formats. We examine the clusters of cities that emerge from the analysis and characterize each based on relevant characteristics, including size, density, geographic region, income, and extent of manufacturing base. Drawing from the Integrated City Sustainability Database, we examine the types of climate protection actions that cities in each cluster have implemented in order to assess the degree of homogeneity between them and assess the extent to which those policies match their emissions profile (n = ~150). This information is used to evaluate the degree of uniformity that is desirable as greenhouse gas measurement practices and climate policy frameworks diffuse between cities. The results of this study can inform city-level climate protection planning processes as well as professional efforts to standardize greenhouse gas inventory development procedures and climate protection policy actions across cities.

Full Paper: