What Does Pioneering Mean in Local Sustainable Development? A Decade ofLocal Sustainability Performance Measurement in the Netherlands

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“Think global, act local” is a phrase much related to green governance. Since the Earth Summit in Rio de Jañeiro and its ‘Local Agenda 21’ in 1992 it is accepted that local authorities have a key role in implementing sustainable development. During the early 1990’s Local Agenda 21 diffused to many countries, including the Netherlands. As a consequence local sustainability reached the national policy agenda, and intergovernmental subsidy schemes and supporting policy instruments were implemented to support local authorities in adopting local sustainability policies and creating ‘local capacity’. One of the measures implemented concerned a tool, the so‐called ‘Local Sustainability Meter’, which was designed to both monitor progress and serve as an incentive in terms of ‘naming and blaming’. The data that has been collected since 1999 enables us to conduct a longitudinal analysis on local sustainability progress and dynamics. For instance, insights may be derived on the magnitude and intensity of policy measures that are adopted, and variation therein between local authorities. In this paper we investigate which factors influence local authorities to become pioneers in sustainability governance. We use insights from Diffusion-of-Innovations theory, Public Management and Policy Network theory to categorize local authorities on sustainability performance, and define what pioneering means in this regard. Next, we investigate developments in the Netherlands, what pioneering means in practice, by which factors it is influenced, and the ways in which pioneers distinguish themselves from their ‘mainstream’ peers. The paper offers theoretical elaboration, it presents a historical case study of the Netherlands, as well as results from an explorative statistical analysis. Therewith, the paper contributes to systematic conceptualization of ‘pioneering in environmental policy’, and adds a local- and multi-level governance component to it.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event6th ECPR General Conference 2011 - University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland
Duration: 24 Aug 201127 Aug 2011


Conference6th ECPR General Conference 2011


  • IR-77856


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