LOCAL SOCIETAL CONTEXTS AND URBAN ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis of 26 European Capital Cities
Based on a sample of 26 European capital cities, this thesis performs a multi-value Qualitative Comparative Analysis to identify what combinations of local conditions facilitate or prevent the transition towards high urban environmental sustainability (UES). More specifically, it examines the conjunctural effect of cities’ relative wealth, the strength of local industrial interests, social trust levels, local climate vulnerability, and the ambitiousness of the national environmental policy context on their performance in the 2009 European Green City Index. These local societal characteristics are expected to affect city residents’ willingness and capacity to alter their (collective) behaviour, which is a prerequisite for pro-environmental change. The results indicate that no characteristic is necessary or by itself sufficient for achieving high UES. Except for local climate vulnerability, all examined factors have explanatory value in certain combinations. Generally speaking, a combination of weak industrial interests, high social trust, and a moderately to highly ambitious national environmental policy context facilitates cities’ ecological transformation. Interestingly, in cities with a favourable national context and weak industrial interests, high social trust can compensate low levels of wealth and vice versa. In contrast, a combination of low levels of wealth and/or strong industrial interests, low social trust, and an unambitious to average national environmental policy context prevents cities’ transition towards high UES. Notably, none of the cities that struggle to become green feature high social trust. Together, these findings therefore suggest that (poor) cities could benefit from putting more effort into enhancing local trust levels.