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Superimposition: How Indian city bureaucracies are responding to climate change

Superimposition: How Indian city bureaucracies are responding to climate change City governments are facing complex challenges due to climate change, but those in the global South often have limited capacities and governance arrangements to develop and execute a response. Cities must also manage other existing priorities such as housing, water and waste management, which have established bureaucratic practices and incentives. How are such cities with limited climate governance capacity and with existing non-climate priorities developing a climate response? From interviews and participant observation in two Indian cities that are pioneering climate action, we find that actors are ‘superimposing’ climate objectives onto existing bureaucratic practices. Building on analysis of ongoing projects in the two cities, we theorize superimposition as an approach taken by bureaucracies that have the intention of responding to climate change but have limited control over their planning practices and mandates, high levels of institutional inertia to change existing practices, and multiple other objectives related to development that dominate agendas. As superimposition does not involve the modification of existing bureaucratic practices or incentives, the types of climate actions which emerge from this approach reflect the features, scope and limitations of existing political arrangements. We highlight five such features of how Indian city bureaucracies respond to climate change: (1) the primacy of central and state ‘schemes’, (2) the prioritization of ‘development’ as an objective, and the imperative to implement (3) ‘quick win’, (4) ‘visible’ and (5) ‘bankable’ projects. Superimposition has led to creative and politically tenable climate projects that meet both climate objectives and those of existing schemes on housing, water and waste. But these projects are also limited by existing governance arrangements with tradeoffs for long-term planning, urban justice and public ownership of infrastructure. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Environment and Planning E SAGE

Superimposition: How Indian city bureaucracies are responding to climate change

Environment and Planning E , Volume 4 (3): 32 – Sep 1, 2021

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References (169)

Publisher
SAGE
Copyright
© The Author(s) 2020
ISSN
2514-8486
eISSN
2514-8494
DOI
10.1177/2514848620949096
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

City governments are facing complex challenges due to climate change, but those in the global South often have limited capacities and governance arrangements to develop and execute a response. Cities must also manage other existing priorities such as housing, water and waste management, which have established bureaucratic practices and incentives. How are such cities with limited climate governance capacity and with existing non-climate priorities developing a climate response? From interviews and participant observation in two Indian cities that are pioneering climate action, we find that actors are ‘superimposing’ climate objectives onto existing bureaucratic practices. Building on analysis of ongoing projects in the two cities, we theorize superimposition as an approach taken by bureaucracies that have the intention of responding to climate change but have limited control over their planning practices and mandates, high levels of institutional inertia to change existing practices, and multiple other objectives related to development that dominate agendas. As superimposition does not involve the modification of existing bureaucratic practices or incentives, the types of climate actions which emerge from this approach reflect the features, scope and limitations of existing political arrangements. We highlight five such features of how Indian city bureaucracies respond to climate change: (1) the primacy of central and state ‘schemes’, (2) the prioritization of ‘development’ as an objective, and the imperative to implement (3) ‘quick win’, (4) ‘visible’ and (5) ‘bankable’ projects. Superimposition has led to creative and politically tenable climate projects that meet both climate objectives and those of existing schemes on housing, water and waste. But these projects are also limited by existing governance arrangements with tradeoffs for long-term planning, urban justice and public ownership of infrastructure.

Journal

Environment and Planning ESAGE

Published: Sep 1, 2021

Keywords: Climate change,urban governance,local climate action,global South,India, cities.

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