23. Sub-national governments and non-state actors shall exercise leadership in solving global problems.

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Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

Nation states are the political entities that supposedly make the vast majority of decisions about urgent matters of global importance. Nations have armies. Nations make treaties with other nations to regulate travel through their skies. Nations make the rules for trading with each other. Nations police their borders and decide who may cross them. It is nations that have votes in the United Nations and other multilateral global institutions. Indeed, it is easy to assume that only nations can determine how the climate will be managed.

That would be a mistaken idea. Other polities also have influence over the temperature of our planet. States and provinces build expressways, for example, as well as control electric grids; enact laws about the emission standards for cars; and maintain forests and waterways. A complete list of provincial powers would fill pages.

Municipalities also exercise great political control over the practices prevailing locally. For example, it is city councils and their agencies that run cities’ buses and subways; choose the type of bulbs to be used in street lights; collect and dispose of trash; enforce building codes; maintain sanitation standards of restaurants; run public schools, libraries and hospitals; purify the tap water; and decide whether or not a proposed casino or race track may be built.

Indeed, subnational governments may have as much control over the factors behind global warming as national governments. Admittedly, it would be foolish to underestimate the importance of nation states in regulating the environment and setting tax rates that incentivize the crucial activities of individuals and businesses. When Donald Trump declared that the United States would quit the Paris Agreement, there were huge consequences. On the other hand, he has not been able to do as much damage to the environment and climate as he intended. Why not? Because, whereas foreign and military policy are decided by the nation’s top executives, the environment is greatly influenced by local practices that provinces and municipalities regulate.

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Robin Collins

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The SDGs: What Local Governments Need to Know
On 25 September 2015, the Member States of the United Nations agreed on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The SDGs build on the Millennium Development Goals, the global agenda that was pursued from 2000 to 2015, and will guide global action on sustainable development until 2030. http://www.decentralization.net/2015/10/the-sdgs-what-local-governments-need-to-know/

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez

What are we talking about when we talk about “subnational” governments? ARTURO HERRERA GUTIERREZ|AUGUST 26, 2015 Over the last 25 years, the relevance of local governments (states, provinces, municipalities, etc.) in Latin America has been constantly increasing. The process started with a wave of decentralization, particularly in the education and health sectors, followed by the increasing of other responsibilities of local governments (with the accompanying budget!), and most recently topped off by the allocation of additional investment resources fueled by the commodities boom of the mid-2000s. Currently, in some countries, half of the national budget is now allocated to lower… Read more »

Arturo Herrera Gutierrez

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What are we talking about when we talk about “subnational” governments?
ARTURO HERRERA GUTIERREZ|AUGUST 26, 2015 https://blogs.worldbank.org/governance/what-are-we-talking-about-when-we-talk-about-subnational-governments (Photo: Municipality of Guatapé in Colombia. Adrienne Hathaway / World Bank)

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Municipalities and provincial government matter too. Imagine being in charge of keeping order on Mulberry Street in New York when it looked like this.