Global Trans-Municipal Networks for Sustainability

In recent decades, the number of inter-municipal networks for sustainability skyrocketed. Indeed, along with the growing awareness of global sustainability in various sectors, these networks have become key actors on the world stage today towards achieving sustainability. Their common goal is effective cooperation. In fact, Douglass (2002) analysed this in the context of past intense competition between global cities. They aim to use the concept of “liveability” in order to break the discourse “grow now, clean up later” (Douglass, 2002). In view of containing global urgent issues of sustainability on the global forefront, they meticulously follows “common climate governance objectives” (Gordon, 2013). They serve various objectives finding innovative solutions to climate governance, like the C40 (Gordon 2013), to promoting cultural diversity, as does the Creative Cities Network (UNESCO, 2004).

On one hand, city networks can be seen as effective and influential, sometimes substituting conventional policy actors (Keiner and Kim, 2007). At their essence, global intercity networks are “dynamic, have quick reaction potential, self-regulating, and allow a broad-based contingency to gain broad-based knowledge”(ibid). They are prompting local policy and action for sustainability. Research shows that a city’s membership to a network play a role in the prospect for the city to tackle climate change for the case of the C40 city network (Lee & Koski 2014). Where international organisations and agreements are absent, networks act as substitutes. At the same time, they enable each city to implement policies independently (Rashidi and Patt, 2018). As cities experience similar sustainability issues across the world, these networks allow them to find common policy solutions, formal channels of communication and publicity (Lee and Koski, 2014). In addition to this, they contribute to a capacity building mechanism for cities that may not have the backbone to overcome global sustainability issues. The large and powerful communication structure that these networks offer has driven mid-sized cities to position themselves as regional “capitals” (Keiner & Kim 2007). It has enabled them to reinforce their urban governance and management structures (ibid). Another strength of city networks in achieving sustainability is that it enhances innovation in the structure of global governance, as well as spreads out different expertise that can be reproduced from one city to another (ibid).

One the other hand, city networks also experience some resistance for different reasons. Firstly, trans-municipal networks, although having strong motives and values in view of sustainability and climate change resilience, lack the ability to turn these values into actual implementation (Gordon 2013). Secondly, city networks are very imbalanced in terms of country representation. Usually, they tend to follow already formed structures, such as regional partnerships, international organisations, or even cultural and language groups. These divisions lead to uneven ties and flows of information (Keiner & Kim 2007).

In the end, one can argue that city networks have effectively participating in mitigating climate change and sustainability issues, even though they need work on actual policy implementation and on balancing geographic memberships. They introduce a new component in the global complex system of climate governance, which represents a good solution to achieve the Agenda 2030. As McArthur and Pipa have suggested in their article (McArthur and Pipa, 2018), this can somehow be translated in the creation of city alliances focused exclusively on the Sustainable Development Goals.


Douglass, M. (2002) ‘From global intercity competition to cooperation for livable cities and economic resilience in Pacific Asia’, Environment and Urbanization, 14(1), pp. 53–68. doi: 10.1177/095624780201400105.

Gordon, D. J. (2013) ‘Between local innovation and global impact: cities, networks, and the governance of climate change’, Canadian Foreign Policy Journal, pp. 288–307. doi: 10.1080/11926422.2013.844186.

Keiner, M. and Kim, A. (2007) ‘Transnational city networks for sustainability’, European Planning Studies, pp. 1369–1395. doi: 10.1080/09654310701550843.

Lee, T. and Koski, C. (2014) ‘Mitigating Global Warming in Global Cities: Comparing Participation and Climate Change Policies of C40 Cities’, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, 16(5), pp. 475–492. doi: 10.1080/13876988.2014.910938.

McArthur, J. and Pipa, T. (2018) ‘Cities on the World Stage: Using the SDGs as a “north star”’. Available at:

Rashidi, K. and Patt, A. (2018) ‘Subsistence over symbolism: the role of transnational municipal networks on cities’ climate policy innovation and adoption’, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 23(4), pp. 507–523. doi: 10.1007/s11027–017–9747-y.

UNESCO (2004) ‘Mission Statement Creative Tourism Network’, p. 2004. Available at:

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