Bottom-up federalism: An examination of U.S. local government climate change policy and practice

Benoy Jacob, Brian Gerber, Samuel Gallaher

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter examines “bottom-up” federalism in the area of climate change. Traditionally, the policy activities of municipal governments have been limited to regulation and implementation of a narrow band of “local” issues such as land use, economic development, and the provision of local public services. Constraining cities’ policy authority to such domains is based on a lengthy legal and economic doctrine dictating that the policy and programmatic authority of local governments should be subservient to higher orders of government, that cities are “mere creatures of the state.” From this, traditional perspective public policy is driven from the top (i.e. higher jurisdictional levels), down to the local level. Recently, the authors observe, American cities have become more proactively engaged with a much broader range of public policies. In contrast to the traditional view, in a number of issue domains, policy is being driven less from the top-down, and more from the bottom-up. The factors that shape and influence bottom-up efforts, however, are poorly understood. This chapter first offers a unique conceptual framework for identifying local policy efforts in terms of bottom-up federalism. It then considers local climate change policy efforts through the lens of this framework. They examine survey data that help measure the degree to which local policies on climate change are consistent with their conceptualization of bottom-up efforts. The authors’ work offers novel insights into how this, potentially, bottom-up situation has emerged and how it manifests itself in practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationIntergovernmental Relations in Transition
Subtitle of host publicationReflections and Directions
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781351182157
ISBN (Print)9780815396420
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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