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Climate change poses a global challenge, but many of the most ambitious and innovative efforts to confront it have emerged from the sub-state level. While such action has received significant attention in North America, less attention has been paid to European sub-state nations and regions, even though several of these regions are at the forefront of policy efforts to reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable energy. This article begins to fill that knowledge gap. It explores the puzzle as to why, and how, given their more limited scope for policy action, some sub-state governments position themselves as ‘climate pioneers’. The article undertakes a heuristic case study of Scotland, which has developed a particularly ambitious climate change and renewable energy programme. Drawing on public policy literature, we use the case study to consider the extent to which such ambition is enabled by constitutional and fiscal capacity, facilitated by a cohesive policy network, and motivated by economic and political goals. While we find evidence of these enabling features in the Scottish case, we argue that understanding sub-state climate action also necessitates examining such action through the lens of territorial politics. Adopting a territorial perspective highlights the opportunities, constraints and motivations associated with the politics of territorial identity and multi-level government.
- Climate pioneer