Citizen Action Monitor

Lament for Canada’s Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) program: Pt 1/2: What is PCP? Why and how does it exert influence on municipal climate change policy?

No 36, Posted by fw, July 31, 2010

lament n. 1. a feeling or an expression of grief, a lamentation; 2. a formal expression of sorrow or mourning, esp. in verse or song; an elegy or dirge

In a 29-page research paper published this year by the Canadian Political Science Association, David Gordon, a University of Toronto PhD student, curiously expresses “lament” in the title of his thesis: Lament for a Network: A Comparative Case Study Analysis of the Impacts of the Partners for Climate Protection Network on Climate Change Policy in Two Canadian Cities.

But why “lament for a network”: Why not “praise for a network”, particularly when the network in question is Canada’s own Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) city-network, which was ostensibly created to help over 200 Canadian municipalities engage in effective climate change policy?

This two-part summary of Gordon’s research study of PCP Canada addresses this and other questions.

Gordon’s research focus

Given the complexity of climate change, and the Harper government’s apathy and inaction on this file, new sub- and non-state players are emerging to fill the void by developing programs aimed at leveraging and increasing municipal climate change opportunities. Partners for Climate Protection (PCP) is one such player. Using a case study approach, drawing on primary document analysis and interviews, Gordon investigates how, and how much, the PCP program has impacted on local climate policy in two PCP-member cities, Winnipeg and Toronto.

Why should cities join the climate change battle?

Gordon explains it this way. Cities are major contributors to and victims of deadly GHG emissions. Currently, over 80% of Canada’s population lives in urban centres. And the 200 plus Canadian municipal members of PCP account for 78% Canada’s population and are responsible, directly or indirectly, for more than 50% of harmful emissions. Sizzling summer heat waves, frequent, severe damaging storms, even tornado touchdowns are no longer remote events; they’re endangering more and more of us right in our own neighbourhoods. And as Canadians become increasingly aware that perilous climate change is now a local issue, and that thousands of city governments worldwide are already fully and actively engaged in their own GHG mitigation/adaptation campaigns, they will grow impatient with the inaction of any dithering, laggard city councils.

After all, Canadian cities have the jurisdictional capacities and responsibilities related to energy use and consumption, reducing GHG emissions, and increasing local adaptive capacity. And they have a set of levers at their disposal: land-use planning, waste disposal, transportation supply and demand, zoning/built landscape regulation, energy production and supply, and local infrastructure.

Undoubtedly, municipalities will need multifaceted assistance in responding to climate change. And that’s where the PCP Canada program comes in.

About Partners for Climate Protection (PCP)

Gordon introduces PCP in terms of its origins, the institutional context in which it is currently embedded, and its core functions.

PCP’s Origins: The roots of PCP go back to 1993 when the Urban CO2 Reduction Project, operated by the International Council for Local Environmental Initiative (ICLEI), was transformed into the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) campaign. In 1998, CCP-Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) 20% Club merged to form Partners for Climate Protection (PCP).

PCP’s institutional context: FCM has the lead role on day-to-day operations, policy development, government relations and funding through the federally funded Green Municipal Fund (GMF). ICLEI provides international linkages, technical support and the broad framework of targets and methodology for the program. As of April 2010, PCP has 203 Canadian municipal members.

PCP’s three core functionsemissions target setting, technical support, and network building.

  • The first function of PCP is to establish a framework of emissions reduction targets. Upon joining the PCP network, member municipalities commit to achieving emissions reduction targets: a reduction of corporate emissions by 20% and community emissions by 6% below 2000 levels within 10 years of joining.
  • PCP’s second function is the provision of abundant technical support in the form of manuals, software, templates, training workshops and so forth. Technical support is embodied in a five-milestone framework for emissions reductions: 1) conduct a GHG inventory; 2) set reduction targets; 3) develop a local action plan; 4) implement the plan; and 5) monitor progress and report results.
  • The third core function is creating and maintaining network linkages among member municipalities. The city-network is a self-help communication/information dissemination tool:  “[by] providing a conduit for a guy in Winnipeg to talk to a guy in Calgary, we’re providing a significant benefit. . . . We’re kind of like the centre of the wheel.”

Ways of thinking about and studying city-networks

Turning from the PCP city-network in particular, to city-networks in general, recall that Gordon is interested in examining how sub- and non-state players influence municipalities to engage in climate change policies. He posits governance by “steering” as the influence mechanism.

Governance by steering

Theoretically speaking, Gordon argues that city-networks are governance networks:

“Governance . . . is conceived of broadly as the act of ‘steering’ through the creation and implementation of rules and rule-systems oriented towards maintaining order and producing common goods. . . . Networks must ‘steer’ since they typically lack the formal powers associated with hierarchical authority structures to compel member compliance. . . . A concern for governance should direct our attention to the mechanisms by which steering occurs.

Four governance functions through which networks “steer” members

There are four governance functions through which sub- and non-state players “steer” their constituent members: networking; guiding; regulating; and enabling.

Governance through networking is premised on the creation of communication/information sharing links among members to facilitate the free flow of information, knowledge, expertise, and ideas. The presumption is that collaborative effort on common goals will be beneficial for all members in terms of understanding and responding to climate change policy development. In this manner, information exchanges could exert a “steering” effect on network members.

Governance through guiding involves helping members to understand, interpret or define policy issues, what actions such understanding authorize, and what actions are appropriate in responding to problems. In this way, the sub-state actor “steers” constituent members’ understanding of what kind of problem climate change is and who should participate in the policy response. For example, programs like PCP typically attempt to re-frame climate change from a global issue requiring multi-lateral negotiations between nations to one that is directly relevant to municipal governments.

Governance through regulating consists of the sub-state player setting rules that can be authoritative when perceived to be legitimate by those to whom they apply. Alternatively, rules may be followed even when such adherence is given voluntarily. Despite the absence of any line authority over members, guidance may take the form of other modes of compliance monitoring and enforcement including publication of performance relative to benchmarks, and certification for rule-adhering members.

Governance through enabling involves efforts to build up or enhance member capacity to develop and implement climate policy. Enabling may take the form of providing members with access to funds, technical tools and expertise, policy planning and implementation templates or guidelines, and more. This deployment of facilitating knowledge and material resources “steers” city-network members to action by means of subtle behavioural encouraging and shaping.

This ends Part 1 of Gordon’s “Lament for PCP Canada”. In part 2, there’s a summary of Gordon’s case-study findings of Toronto’s and Winnipeg’s PCP experience — lamentable findings as it turns out.


The study cited in this post is a 29-page revision of Gordon’s original 168-page MA thesis published under the same title in 2009. For more information about the availability of this dissertation, go to ProQuest’s Dissertations & Theses website.

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