Allison Le Corre
May 15, 2023
Climate change and energy transitions are among the most pressing global challenges of our time. Tackling such a challenge requires collective and common action. No single entity or government can find and put into action the solution to climate change on its own. Designing and implementing effective policies towards a climate-neutral and resilient future is a complex and multifaceted task that involves various levels of governance, from national to regional and local.
Establishing effective multilevel governance in energy and climate policies is a fundamental part of the global fight against climate change. But how do we know what’s effective? What examples already exist of successful multilevel governance that can guide the way?
As part of the effort to set up multilevel dialogue platforms to accompany the revision process of National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) in 6 EU countries, the NECPlatform project (funded by the EU’s LIFE programme) has mapped out a series of examples that can serve as an inspiration.
A total of 21 initiatives were identified, following specific criteria* given the nature of the climate energy and dialogue platforms that the project is trying to establish.
Among the initiatives in Europe, we find examples such as the Flemish Climate Pact in Belgium and the Natural Gas Phase Out Strategy in the Netherlands, as two successful examples of multilevel governance initiatives focused on climate and energy policies.
The Flemish Climate Pact involves regional and local governments, ensuring effective links with the regions regarding local needs on four key pillars: nature-based solutions, energy mitigation policies, mobility, and water management. As a result of the Pact, over 95% of the Flemish municipalities have committed to 16 pre-defined targets in these areas. Meanwhile, the Natural Gas Phase Out Strategy in the Netherlands focuses on multilevel cooperation between the national and local levels, offering an integrated, neighbourhood-based approach to phase out gas heating, with a focus on affordability and feasibility.
On a more global scale, we find examples such as the Regional Decarbonisation Roadmap in Japan. This Roadmap, developed in cooperation with sub-regional governments and various concerned ministries, sets out priority measures and actions to achieve zero carbon, aiming to create at least 100 “leading decarbonised regions” by 2030. With Japanese prefectures having autonomy over their environmental policies, local authorities are left the freedom to design policies that fit in the national framework.
Many more examples also from Southern and Eastern Europe to the Americas, Africa, and Asia, are cited.
After looking at this handful of good examples, we can pinpoint a few success factors for effective multilevel governance initiatives.
First, it is essential to take the time to set up the process and listen to members, ensuring that everyone’s voice is heard. Additionally, local and regional authorities should be involved in the process and unburdened, rather than micromanaged. Finding a champion or facilitating peer-to-peer experience sharing can also be crucial. For example, the Mayor of Mechelen in the Flemish Pact has been a leading force in the initiative, all the while treating all the members as equals. Balancing vertical versus horizontal decision-making is also important, and leadership should come from a neutral stakeholder. Finally, involving the national government is always a big advantage, as it lends credibility to the process.
So, what does that mean for policymakers and practitioners who wish to set up their own multilevel governance processes? If you are aiming to start your own initiative, we recommend you follow a few good practices.
Follow these principles:
Take these concrete actions:
*Given the nature and the purpose of the Climate Energy Dialogue platforms, the relevant best practices were narrowed following criteria:
This report and collection of Best Practices were developed by IEECP experts, Jérémy Cléro and Giulia Pizzini.