Public-Private Collaboration in Climate Change Planning by Cities: A New York City Case Study

Tone Søndergaard Jensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Cities around the world have to an increasing degree become major drivers of climate change planning. This thesis investigates the use of public-private collaboration by city governments during the implementation of these plans. The primary focus is to analyze government motivations to engage in public-private collaboration within climate change planning, its causal effect on the use of collaboration strategies, and novel trends within the use of such public-private collaboration strategies. The thesis creates a theoretical framework that hypothesizes four types of government motivations and six associated collaboration strategies. The government motivations are resource aspects, efficiency arguments, legitimacy considerations, and innovation needs. The public-private collaboration strategies are strategic partnerships, joint venturing, procurement of contracts, outsourcing, collaborative networks, and procurement of innovation. The analysis is based on a case study of New York City and eight flagship climate change initiatives. New York City is a highly relevant case as it is a global frontrunner within climate change planning, with a comprehensive scope of climate change initiatives, and implementation starting earlier than many large cities. Even though public-private collaboration strategies used in climate change planning by cities have received little attention in the academic literature, the case findings suggest that the overall theoretical framework is relevant also within this policy realm. In all analyzed initiatives, government motivations are found to be associated with collaboration strategies proposed in the theoretical framework. Subsequently, the thesis concludes that case findings support government motivations having a causal effect on the use of public-private collaboration strategy within climate change planning by cities. The thesis also finds that dual motives can exist within the same initiative, either simultaneously or in succession. Trends within government motivations include the relative frequent occurrence of resource and legitimacy motivations, the growing role of innovation motivation, and efficiency arguments based on vital data and technical know-how held by the private sector. Additionally, there was a trend to widespread use of collaborative networks and elements of strategic partnerships, even when this strategy was not the primary one. Potentially influential novel collaboration issues, that the theoretical framework did not anticipate, are also investigated. The issues fall within three areas. Firstly, the policy issues of climate change; secondly, city centric structures; and thirdly, the involvement of specialized nonprofit organizations and scientists from local universities. This increases the complexity of public-private collaboration within climate change planning by cities, especially in two ways. The first being that private actors are becoming more critical to reach the policy goal of climate change initiatives, which in turn influences the division discretion, with initiatives increasingly being jointly developed and implemented. Secondly, it suggests that new extensive forms of public-private collaboration, including mixed forms, are developing. The trends within government motivation and collaboration strategies in combination with the implication of the novel collaboration issues, make up a movement within public-private collaboration in climate change planning by cities, which this thesis denotes ‘comprehensive climate cooperatives’.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages112