CFP AAG 2018: The Urban Material Politics of Decarbonization

Organized by: Laura Tozer (University of Toronto), Sarah Knuth (Durham University), Anthony Levenda (University of Calgary), and John Stehlin (University of California, Berkeley)

Sponsored by: Urban Geography Specialty Group and Environment and Energy Specialty Group

This session explores today's multi-sited movement to frame urban built environments as a central point of intervention for both climate change mitigation and resilience. Today's interventions build on a long history of urban climate change activism and politics that geographers have long been at the forefront of efforts to empirically investigate and theorize (e.g., Bulkeley & Betsill 2005, Rice 2010). However, the bulk of urban geography continues to neglect the importance of urban materiality in climate activism, even as new calculations of decarbonization (often profit-driven) and climate risk transform core areas of scholarly exploration and engaged praxis. These areas include among others urban real estate development and redevelopment, financing, growth machine politics, displacements and injustices. Similarly, critical geographic explorations of climate policy have often been preoccupied with carbon markets, offset politics and policy representations to the exclusion of the embedded materialities of actual decarbonization. As decarbonization unfolds, it becomes necessary to consider the material politics of low carbon transformations, in which retrofitting urban built environments have becoming increasingly central.

This session aims to help fill this gap, building on Bulkeley, Castán Broto & Edwards’s call (2014) to address the material politics of low-carbon transitions, and by Biehler and Simon (2011), Knuth (2016) and Edwards and Bulkeley (2017) in critiquing urban political ecology's persistent neglect of buildings and the political economy of real estate. Particularly, the session aims to place work on retrofitting for climate change mitigation and resilience more firmly in conversation with critical accounts of "green" urban (re)development (Greenberg 2015, Cohen 2017, and others) and to consider the politics of these transformations (Rutherford 2014, Hodson et al. 2016, McGuirk and Dowling 2016). Following this work, we aim to support necessary ongoing discussion of green gentrification/displacement as an outcome of urban property transformations for climate change, but also to consider the other multi-scalar political work that building and real estate-led climate interventions may be doing in the political configuration of cities, in national struggles over energy transitions, in transnational accumulation strategies, in transformations of the real estate development industry, in varieties of urban competition, and beyond.

Interested participants should send abstracts to laura.tozer@mail.utoronto.ca by September 29th. Participants will be notified of acceptance by October 10th.

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Hodson, M., Burrai, E., and Barlow, C. (2016). Remaking the material fabric of the city: ‘alternative’ low carbon spaces of transformation or continuity? Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 18: 128–146.
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Laura TozerComment