This research identifies how institutional features of local government shape the implementation of environmental sustainability plans and initiatives. While decision makers increasingly recognize the importance of local sustainability initiatives, environmental degradation continues due to a slow uptake of sustainable practices. To generate new and useful knowledge about this implementation gap, the research team analyzes local planning institutions and practices through a large scale survey of local urban and regional planners and managers as well as by case studies. The study involves an international comparison of planning and development institutions in the U.S. and New Zealand. As New Zealand achieves the highest environmental performance among the free market economies, this comparison generates knowledge and innovative solutions that are relevant in the U.S. and internationally.
The goal of this project is to provide an in-depth understanding of barriers to the successful implementation of local sustainability plans and initiatives as well as ways in which local public institutions can be transformed to remove these barriers. The findings help to inform the uptake of sustainability strategies in practice and are relevant to other spheres of local governance, such as budgeting, infrastructure planning, and hazard mitigation.