Academic journal article Cityscape

Policy Integration for Sustainable Development and the Benefits of Local Adoption

Academic journal article Cityscape

Policy Integration for Sustainable Development and the Benefits of Local Adoption

Article excerpt

Abstract

The concept of sustainable development has evolved from a focus primarily on environmental issues to a more balanced approach that consists of environmental, economic, and societal elements. Local efforts to promote environmentalism and economic growth are not mutually exclusive, but questions remain on the types of policies that integrate these efforts. In this article, we explain the adoption of policies that aim to reduce development costs for businesses that integrate environmental protection and energy conservation measures into their investments. The empirical analysis is based on a national survey of local sustainability policy conducted in 2010. A series regression model provides evidence of business interests and the mediating influence political institutions have on policy adoption.

Introduction

Within academia and professional associations, relatively strong agreement exists on the need for local governments to design and implement policies that are oriented toward sustainability (Leuengerger and Bartle, 2009). The concept of sustainability focuses on the long-term policy and planning goal of maintaining a social-environmental system that is in balance (Campbell, 1996; Jepson, 2004). Sustainable development - as a guiding principle for local growth policies - has evolved from a focus primarily on environmental issues to a more integrated approach that consists of environmental, economic, and societal dimensions (Fiorino, 2010; Mazmanian and Kraft, 2009).

Understanding local sustainable development policy is important, because cities represent the principal jurisdictional unit that develops governance structures that affect local growth and the environment (Bulkeley and Betsill, 2003; Portney, 2003). Local governments have long been active in designing and implementing policies to improve their economic competi veness. Cities have also become increasingly active in crafting policies that provide economic opportunities for all who are eligible and supporting economic growth that consumes limited resources efficiently. Reconciling these objectives is not easily accomplished. Among the reasons are the intense competition and conflict over policy benefits among local interests that play out in political arenas (Hawkins, 201 1).

Even with such conflict, economic growth and environmentalism do not have to be mutually exclusive objectives (Feiock and Stream, 2001; Portney, 2003). In this article, we focus on policies that are commonly associated with a supply-side approach to development but that aim to reduce development costs for businesses that integrate environmental protection and energy conservation measures into their investments. Through incentives that promote green technology, onsite renewable energy systems, and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, environmentalism and development do not represent an either/or proposition. Rather, cities can integrate environmental objectives into their pursuit of economic growth with policies that encourage new building and with land development that minimizes resource consumption.

Unlike most previous research on sustainable development, this study specifically identifies policies that integrate environmental and energy issues into development incentives. Our main objective is to explain the variation in the use of these policies by U.S. cities. Tradeoffs, however, can occur between a policy instrument and the extent to which a local government can capture the resultant benefits. To demonstrate how these tradeoffs may factor into policy decisions, we discuss the policies in this study as having the potential to (1) provide place-based benefits that address structural conditions of a locality, (2) shape the benefits provided to different local interest groups, and (3) generate symbolic benefits for local elected officials.

To frame our discussion on these points, we turn to the literature on local governing institutions and interest groups (Feiock, Tavares, and Lubell, 2008; Hawkins, 2011; Lubell, Feiock, and Ramirez, 2005; Ramirez, 2009). …

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