Climate Governance and the Transformation of the Science-Policy Interface in Canadian Cities

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 14:30
Oral Presentation
Julie HAGAN, Laval University, Canada
Yuan Zheng LI, Université Laval, Canada
In the last decade, cities positioned themselves as central players of the global climate governance. Has this engagement of cities with climate change transformed urban environmental governance? Did it modify the type of knowledge and stakeholders involved in policy-making? And if so, how? And to what extent? To explore these questions, we conducted a pan-Canadian comparative case study analysis of 6 cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City. We conducted in-depth interviews with decision-makers and performed a discourse analysis of interview transcripts as well as policies documents produced by each city. Our findings indicate that consideration of climate issues by cities have, in fact, transformed their approach to environmental governance. Most Canadian cities have integrated climate science into their governance strategies. Some have integrated climate quite extensively within their structure and have bona fide climate scientists on the City payroll. While not all cities have thriving Sustainability Offices, many have sub-divisions dedicated specifically to climate issues embedded within Energy or Environment departments. The size of the city and the relative influence of elected officials are also important factors affecting the extent to which climate issues are addressed and, in turn, how climate has transformed urban governance. Smaller cities are more likely to be influenced by elected officials’ agenda, while public servants within metropolitan areas can sometimes resist the power of a strong Mayor. In conclusion, the integration of climate in urban governance has factored in the transformation of the science-policy interface in Canadian Cities. In many cases sustainability – considered a “fuzzy” idea – has been superseded by quantifiable data and mathematical models. Climate scientists are thriving, and many sustainability offices have undergone significant restructuring. These findings raise interesting new questions for environmental, political and urban sociology as well as for the social studies of science.