Authority arenas and innovations in Cairo’s climate governance


  • Ahmed Tarek Alahwal University of Freiburg




Climate governance is polycentric, with diverse standard-setting centers and no chains of delegation, and is transnational, existing outside of the realm of national states. This transnational and polycentric nature motivated innovations to accountability and authority that create bases of legitimacy parallel to representative democracy (Bäckstrand, Zelli & Schleifer 2018). Cities have often voluntarily adopted and helped create new forms of accountability and authority and engage in horizontal and vertical governance chains outside of nation-states.

Accountability and authority innovations stem from diverse urban climate governance rationales. Among these are democratization, entrepreneurialisation, decentralization, orchestration, or securitization. However, conflicts often arise between democratic legitimacy bases and those rooted in economic rationales, technocratic tendencies of climate governance, national security interests, or emergency approaches to the climate catastrophe (MIttiga, 2022).

Studies lack on how cities adopt climate governance mechanisms in nations without the representative democracy characteristic of free and fair elections. Transnational polycentric climate governance can present a tool for democratization that is especially valuable to such a context, or it can repeat existing patterns of power-sharing, dispossession, and marginalization. The paper explores this Hypothesis through the case study of the Greater Cairo region, one of the largest urban agglomerations in Africa. The scope of the study includes actions in Cairo that explicitly use climate change in their rationales, led by governmental and non-governmental actors of all scales. The representative sample includes projects of hard and soft intended impacts and climate change sectors.

The paper is the third of and builds on two other papers by the author that focus on Cairo’s climate governance. The first maps the inclusion and exclusion of actors from climate actions, and the second analyses the types of accountability and authoritarian practices. Building on the analysis of inclusion and accountability, this paper explores how they lead to forms of authority through discursive legitimacies (Bulkeley 2012), the resulting control of resources (Purdy 2012), and centrality in governance networks (Di Gregorio et al. 2019).


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MIttiga, R 2022, 'Political Legitimacy, Authoritarianism, and Climate Change', American Political Science Review. Available from: [14 October 2023].

Bulkeley, H 2012, 'Governance and the Geography of Authority: Modalities of Authorisation and the Transnational Governing of Climate Change', Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, vol. 44, no. 10, pp. 2428–2444.

Purdy, JM 2012, 'A Framework for Assessing Power in Collaborative Governance Processes', Public Administration Review, vol. 72, no. 3, pp. 409–417. Available from:

Di Gregorio, M, Fatorelli, L, Paavola, J, Locatelli, B, Pramova, E, Nurrochmat, DR, May, PH, Brockhaus, M, Maya Sari, I & Dyah Kusumadewi, S 2019, 'Multi-level governance and power in climate change policy networks', Global Environmental Change [15 October 2023].