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College of Arts & Sciences
Hazards & Vulnerability Research Institute

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: A Comparison of US Cities in Local Agenda 21 and Climate Change Mitigation

Valerie A. Kudes

Advisor:  Dr. Kirstin Dow



Global changes result from action at the local level. However, current international policies cannot adequately address global environmental problems because they are impeded by their distance from local issues. In the United States, there has been little national emphasis or guidance regarding Local Agenda 21 (LA21) or climate change mitigation. Local action is voluntary. Nevertheless, there are 43 U.S. cities involved in these types of programs. There is insufficient explanation as to why some communities choose to become broadly involved in sustainable development, as the cities incorporating LA21 strategies, and why others have chosen to specifically address climate change, as those involved in the Cities for Climate Protection (CCP) program. With this in mind, this thesis investigates determinants of a U.S. city's participation in LA21 or CCP. Specifically, a quantitative analysis is performed to determine the significance of socioeconomic characteristics regarding a city's choice of action. Next, through a two-part survey of the cities, the motivations, barriers, and levels of city involvement are investigated. This research shows that the majority of cities involved in LA21 developed their programs out of a previous committment to the environment and/or a need for a framework to integrate other city programs. In contrast, involvement for CCP cities was primarily due to contact with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives staff or the presence of a local policy entrepreneur. The cities in LA21 are farther along with their initiatives, and the progress of CCP cities varies. The cities' level of progress is partially indicated by the quantity of human resources involved and the length of involvement. Both groups of cities agree on the greatest barriers to progress, lack of human resources, and lack of financial support.

KEYWORDS: Global Warming, U.S. Cities, Local Agenda 21, Cities for Climate Protection program