Co-creational city leadership:
- a vehicle and platform for climate transformation and integrated crises management?

Time: 13:30 - 15:00, Thursday October 28
Room: PA 124, P46 OsloMet

Multiple, co-existing crises such as the climate change, Covid-19, biodiversity loss, growing inequality and social injustices raise a set of interacting challenges from local to global scales and challenge the traditional sector organization of city governments. These multiple crises have spurred increased interest in the politics of urban governance as well as in the role of col-creational leadership in managing such interacting challenges, including the need for climate transformation.

This sesion is inspired by a four year project funded by RCN – GreenGov – which studies co-creational leadership in four frontrunning climate governance cities; Cape Town, Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Oslo. While the main focus of the panel will be on the climate crisis and its urban consequences and related leadership challenges, the panel also seeks to flesh out the implications of multiple, interacting crises-challenges for local politico-administrative leadership.

The understanding of the links between these crisis-phenomena are critical if the goal is transformation towards sustainable urban futures. Their management requires broader engagement, coordination and co-creation across a wider set of actors, organisations and platforms than often observed in public governance.

While we find an increasing number of empirical case studies that explore the emerging role of cities in climate governance, few comparative empirical and theoretical studies have investigated the more precise relationships between urban climate governance, city leadership and co-creational approaches to sustainable urban futures in circumstances within which climate politics increasingly shapes urban policy agendas – and other crises emerge. New actors and new political frontiers are emerging, which hav elicited greater appeals in cities for the need for leadership to address issues of social equity, climate justice and related urban sustainability.


This panel will be dived in two sessions: a paper presentation session (13.30-14.20), and a panel discussion (14.20-15.00) with representatives from the city, private business sector, civil society and academia (in Norwegian) to discuss the following question: Hva kreves av samskapende byledelse for klimaomstilling framover?

The papers

The paper presentations relate to how city climate leadership and governance unfolds at the international, metropolitan and city levels respectively through case studies from Cape Town, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, and Oslo and relevant transnational networks with which each of the cities engage. There will also be a brief presentation of a typology for co-creational leadership of climate transformation.

introduction: Co-creating urban climate action in polycentric governance: A case study of four global cities, Trond Vedeld, Hege Hofstad, NIBR-OsloMet

Cities are increasingly highlighted as key sites and actors in the global response to climate change. However, we still have little systematic knowledge on how ambitious urban climate goals are operationalized in city governance and leadership.

In particular, we have few comparative empirical studies across cities in the Global South and Global North that examine how leadership and climate actions emerge in politico-administrative systems.

This article adopts a polycentric governance perspective to explore the climate mitigation goals and related organizational responses in four major cities by looking at how the city leadership utilizes co-creation as an approach to ensure both vertical and horizontal integration of climate action in the wider governance framework.

This concerns both how public leaders collaborate or negotiate with other public actors in multilevel interaction as well as how they mobilize relevant and concerned civic and private actors and other cities within the more dispersed and fragmented polycentric governance system. Co-creation to this end is motivated by the fact that no one public or private actor can resolve the climate crisis alone.

Climate change as a complex and unruly societal challenge requires collective action across a plethora of actors and scales and the leverage by the city of added business and civil society resources and commitments to common climate goals.

Confronted by limited coherence in the national climate policy, the leadership in Cape Town, Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Oslo has developed both distinct internal multilevel and external polycentric co-creational approaches and related climate actions within their devolved mandates.

This is done through interactions in both formal and informal arenas and platforms of the wider ecosystem of actors involved. In efforts to address specific climate experimentations and build capacity, each of the cities create their own or take part in a variety of trans-local and transnational city networks and thus influence key domestic public policies as well as international market actors and global policies in the climate arena.

These co-creational relationships are critical for successful performance. Invariably, while local business actors and networks have become increasingly forward looking and supportive of green transitions, substantive national political-economic obstacles keep hindering the four cities to further their ambitious climate goals and actions on climate change. Implications of the empirical findings are drawn for both governance/co-creation theory and policy.

The article is based on studies undertaken through a four year project (GreenGov) using a combination of policy analysis and interviews of key informants.

Paper 1: Applying polycentric theory reveals new aspects of climate governance in Copenhagen 2006-2020, Karsten Bruun Hansen, Roskilde University

In 2009, Copenhagen declared its objective to become the first CO2-neutral city in the world by 2025 by practicing a collaborative governance approach. However, a 2020 status expects a need for decarbonisation of at least 33% in 2025 to reach the target.

By refining and applying a polycentric governance concept, we show that one explanation to the flawed result might be an insufficient mobilisation of civic society actors.

The article finds that applying polycentric theory at the subnational or local level – which is a new theoretical contribution – reveals that Copenhagen primarily uses a monocentric, top-down oriented climate governance approach despite of its collaborative intensions. The polycentric concept seems able to explain the inadequate result of collaborative climate governance approach in Copenhagen.

Finally, we discuss what polycentric theory adds to the debate about bold urban climate governance, e.g. regarding a strategic need to mobilise civic society into the realisation of an ambitious CO2-neutrality plan.

Paper 2: Integrative climate leadership in multi-level policy packages for urban mobility
A study of governance systems in two Nordic urban regions,Anders Tønnesen, CICERO Gro Sandkjær Hanssen, OsloMet, Karsten Bruun Hansen, Roskilde University, and Sandra C. Valencia, Gothenburg University

Integrated land-use and transport system development has for long been highlighted as essential in the transition to the low-emission society. One response has been urban policy packages used as platforms to realize large-scale transport projects, and for the synchronization of measures and policy actors at all levels of government.

This paper involves a comparative study of transport policy packages in the Gothenburg and Oslo urban regions. It is set out to identify important components of integrative climate leadership in such governance settings.

In both urban regions the policy packages are based on broad compromises across political parties, levels of government and different parts of the urban areas. This involves both barriers and opportunities for the implementation of ambitious climate policies.

We argue that an integrative approach is essential to strengthen climate policy in the governance of urban mobility. We find that strong components of the climate leadership rely on a well-developed governance framework with strong goals, strategies and steering tools.

Further, in Oslo, co-creation and goal achievement is clearly facilitated by the formalized principles of equality between the parties at the three levels of government and their shared obligation to act in accordance with a national environmental goal.

Paper 3: Transnational city networks and local leadership in climate urban governance
Marianne Millstein, NIBR-OsloMet and Anna Taylor, African Center for Cities, University of Cape Town.

The scholarship on transnational climate municipal networks reveals an increasingly complex assemblage of state, city and non-state actors networked across scale and space which inform urban policy discourse, strategy and practices of climate action (Bulkeley 2021, Bulkeley and Betsill 2013; Fuhr; Davidson et al 2019a,b).

However, there is still a need for in-depth knowledge about how such transnational networks impact upon urban institutions (Davidson et al 2019), and a better understanding of the ‘day-to-day practicalities that cities experience’ (Van der Hejden et al 2019:366) when engaging in such networks.

Several scholars argue that we need to unpack the interactions of global networks with the local governance ecosystem. As Davidson et al (2019) point out, we need research on a ‘more granular level of the knowledge networking to home in on the individual actors in order to unpack the micro-foundations of city networks.’ This is in contrast to the tendencies in much of the literature to approach and analyse climate leadership through the lens of the role of the network, and/or how the cities – as singular entities – are acting as frontrunners in and through such networks.

In this paper, we start addressing this knowledge gap and focus on how cities’ urban ‘governance ecosystems’ inform and is informed by engaging in transnational networks. Our empirical analysis focuses on Oslo and Cape town – two frontrunner cities that are members of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group network (C40).

Exploring how the C40 network engages with city and non-city actors engaged in urban climate governance in these cities, helps us better understand the differentiated roles that the C40 may play, and how differently positioned member cities with ambitious climate objectives, perceive the usefulness of the C40 for realising their climate goals.

Thus, rather than discussing the City as an actor in a globalised climate field, we argue that viewing the network-city actor relations from the ‘inside-out’, i.e. from the perspective of the city actors themselves, provides a nuanced perspective on the multiscalar and polycentric politics of urban climate change and the role of city-network dynamics in local contexts.

This approach also helps us better understand how C40 as a network actor engaging directly or indirectly with city actors may inform local urban governance eco-systems in different ways.

Paper 4: A typology of co-creational city leadership for climate transformation: Characterizing key ideal types, Hege Hofstad, Trond Vedeld, Annika Agger, Gro Sandkjær Hanssen, Anders Tønnesen, Sandra Valencia

This article develops a typology of co-creational city leadership that clarifies how cities act as public agents to co-create policies and practices for climate transformation together with public and private stakeholders.

The typology – as an organized system of leadership types – is constructed from a combination of governance theory and empirical examples from four global, climate-ambitious cities. It proposes four co-creational leadership ideal types; ideational, integrative, adaptive and distributive leadership.

The typology serves as an analytical tool to draw out underlying dimensions of co-creational leadership and captures a unique yet interdependent set of leadership characteristics in specific intentions, leadership mechanisms and potential outcomes.

The typology highlights the holistic, iterative, dynamic, and embedded character of such leadership, the ultimate outcome being dependent on the initial context, sources of authority and the leadership approach.

The panel

  • Chair: Geir Heierstad, NIBR direktør
  • Audun Blegen, Bærekraftsdirektør, NORDR (tidligere Veidekke)
  • Thomas Berman, Daglig leder SoCentral/Pådriv
  • Rune Gjøs, Direktør, Mobilitetsdivisjonen, Bymiljøetaten, Oslo kommune
  • Hege Hofstad, Forsker 1, By- og regionsforskningsinstituttet, OsloMet

The panel will wrap up with a discussion on what the implications of the empirical findings have for the practice of city climate leadership and future research. The session constitutes a final workshop of the GreenGov project (


  • Trond Vedeld, NIBR OsloMet
  • Hege Hofstad, NIBR OsloMet