English Intern
  • Team of the Chair of Social Science Sustainability
Institut für Politikwissenschaft und Soziologie

Call for Papers: Local Authorities on Their Way to Climate Action


Achieving societal targets for sustainability and climate change mitigation and adaptation depends significantly on local action and implementation. Embedded within Agenda 21, the famous slogan "think global, act local" highlights the importance of considering global issues while acting at the local level to generate tangible impacts. Sustainable Development Goals including good health and well-being; affordable and clean energy; industry, innovation and infrastructure; sustainable cities and communities; as well as climate action materialize from the efforts of many different actors and institutions according to their own capacities and potentials.

 While much extant scholarly work has focused on the sustainability efforts of higher governance levels, including international negotiations, nation states or big cities, this special issue focuses on local authorities, and especially smaller municipalities such as towns and villages, but also counties and districts in rural regions on their quest to sustainability. A significant proportion of the world population lives in such settings and they therefore comprise an important, but often overlooked, sphere of sustainability and climate action. The special issue aims to address this gap by bringing together novel perspectives from different disciplinary perspectives, geographical regions as well as action arenas to shed light on specific challenges, but also key opportunities, in moving forward.

In so doing, the special issue will cover commonalities, but also differences, in the struggle for sustainability in diverse local political, socio-economic, and environmental settings. Compared to other governance levels or big cities, smaller local authorities face well-known challenges including the impacts of climate change, questions of buildings and housing, mobility, health, or digitalization, in different ways. For example, compared to metropolitan areas, lower population density and a different demographic structure translates into specific needs and challenges, which limit the transferability of lessons and approaches that may have been developed in big cities or on higher governance levels. We aim to unpack and systematize such aspects that emerge with a view to local micro-politics and actors, demographic developments, finance, and resource issues, as well as capacities, to name just a few examples. Building on these new insights, the special issue will also explore the local solution space that emerges from specific opportunities in small local authorities. While strict generalization tends to be difficult in highly localized settings where context matters immensely, the special issue will identify common challenges and opportunities that permit learning about the realities of working towards sustainability and climate action in small local authorities. In so doing, the special issue will address the following questions, but is also open to submissions that go beyond them:

  • Who is involved in governing sustainability and climate change at the local level? What are the relationships between different actors?
  • What are the mechanisms that facilitate climate and sustainability processes and/or policy innovation in smaller and mid-sized municipalities?
  • What strategies and policies do local actors employ and how successful are they?
  • What are the (institutional/socio-economic/spatial) challenges local authorities and non-governmental actors are facing today?
  • How do local authorities overcome the challenges, and what is the solution space in which they operate?

Presenting the work of both early career and experienced scholars, the special issue will generate insights not only for scientists, but also for practitioners and their support networks working in or for small local authorities. It will build on a dedicated and accepted panel at the National Convention of the German Political Science Association (GPSA) at the University of Göttingen in September 2024. We aim to put together a dedicated author workshop following the convention to incorporate additional contributions for a final roster of at least 10 articles.

Guest Editors

  • Jonas Schoenefeld, Institute for Housing and Environment (IWU), Germany
  • Ulrike Zeigermann:, University of Würzburg; Marc Bloch Centre in Berlin, Germany

Submission Deadline

28 November, 2024


Download Call for Papers