Symbolic Meta-Policy: (Not) Tackling Climate Change in the Transport Sector

Ian Bache, Louise Reardon, Ian Bartle, Matthew Flinders, Greg Marsden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This paper seeks to understand how the UK government’s headline climate change targets are translated into action at the local level in the transport sector drawing on the findings of research in two English regions. In doing so, these headline targets are identified as a symbolic meta-policy that results in little action on the ground and which challenges established conceptions of policy implementation. Both the ‘meta’ and ‘symbolic’ aspects of the policy offer part of the explanation for the lack of substantive action on the ground. As a meta-policy, the headline targets across government require the elaboration of other policies at other levels such as targets for government departments and local authorities, but these are largely absent, leaving the meta-policy without teeth. Over time, these headline targets have developed into a symbolic policy, serving political goals but having little practical effectiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)830-851
Number of pages22
JournalPolitical Studies
Issue number4
Early online date20 Mar 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015


  • Climate change
  • Implementation
  • Symbolic policy
  • Meta-governance
  • Transport


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