Background: Cities play a significant role globally in creating carbon emissions but, as centers of major population, innovation and social practice, they also offer important opportunities to tackle climate change. The new challenges faced by cities in an 'age of austerity' and decentralist agendas present substantial challenges for coordinated multilevel governance. Results: Based on research carried out in 2011-2012, this paper examines the attitudes and responses of sustainability and climate change officers in UK cities that have prepared low carbon and climate change plans, in the context of these challenges. Using a conceptual framework that analyses 'awareness', 'analysis' and 'actions' (in the context of spending cuts and a new 'decentralized' policy agenda) this research suggests that progress on low-carbon futures for cities continues to be fragmented, with increased funding constraints, short-termism and lack of leadership acting as key barriers to progress. Conclusion: Recent UK national policies (including localism, austerity measures and new economic incentives) have not only created further uncertainties, but also scope for cities' local innovation through policy leverage and self-governing actions. © 2013 Future Science Ltd.
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