Cities have become a focal point for efforts to transition towards a more sustainable, low-carbon society, with many municipal agencies championing ‘eco city’ initiatives of one kind or another. And yet, national policy initiatives frequently play an important – if sometimes overlooked – role, too. This chapters provides comparative perspectives on four recent national sustainable city programmes from France, India, Japan, and the United Kingdom. The analysis reveals two key insights: first, national policy is found to exercise a strong shaping role in what sustainable development for future cities is understood to be, which helps explain the considerable differences in priorities and approaches across countries. Second, beyond articulating strategic priorities, national policy may exercise a ‘soft’ governance function by incentivising and facilitating wider, voluntary governance networks in the effort to implement sustainable city projects locally. This innovative role, however, depends on the ability of national policy to produce resonance among societal actors and on its effective interaction with formal planning processes.