My journal article "Discourses of carbon neutrality and imaginaries of urban futures" with Nicole Klenk has recently been published in Energy Research and Social Science. The paper examines urban policy documents that are mapping trajectories towards carbon neutral cities. These policy documents are imagining what it might mean to be a future carbon neutral city. We find a few themes in the stories that are told about low carbon governance and urban energy futures.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by September 29th. Participants will be notified of acceptance by October 10th.
Biehler, D.D., & Simon, G. L. (2010). The Great Indoors: research frontiers on indoor environments as active political-ecological spaces. Progress in Human Geography, 35(2), 172–192.
Bulkeley, H., & Betsill, M. M. (2005). Rethinking sustainable cities: multilevel governance and the “urban” politics of climate change. Environmental Politics, 14(1), 42–63.
Bulkeley, H., Castan Broto, V., & Edwards, G. A. S. (2015). An urban politics of climate change: experimentation and the governing of socio-technical transitions. New York: Routledge.
Bulkeley, H., McGuirk, P. M., & Dowling, R. (2016). Making a smart city for the smart grid? The urban material politics of actualising smart electricity networks, Environment and Planning A, 48(9), 1709–1726.
Cohen, D.A. (2017). Other low-Carbon protagonists: poor people's movements and climate politics in Sao Paulo. In M. Greenberg & P. Lewis (Eds.), City is the Factory: New Solidarities and Spatial Strategies in an Urban Age. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Edwards, G. and Bulkeley, H. (2017) Urban political ecologies of housing and climate change: the ‘Coolest Block’ contest in Philadelphia, Urban Studies, 54(5), 1126-1141.
Greenberg, M. (2015). “The sustainability edge”: competition, crisis, and the rise of green urban branding. In C. Isenhour, G. McDonogh, & M. Checker (Eds.), Sustainability in the Global City: Myth and Practice (New Directions in Sustainability and Society). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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.
Knuth, S. (2016). Seeing green in San Francisco: city as resource frontier, Antipode 48(3): 626-644.
Rice, J. (2010). Climate, Carbon, and Territory: Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in Seattle, Washington, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 100(4), 929-937.
Rutherford, J. (2014). The vicissitudes of energy and climate policy in Stockholm: politics, materiality and transition, Urban Studies, 51(7), 1449–1470.
Organized by: Laura Tozer (University of Toronto) and Anthony Levenda (University of Calgary)
This panel will discuss urban climate change response in the age of the smart city. As greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures and climate action plans are implemented in cities, it becomes necessary to consider which visions of ‘smart’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘low carbon’ are being implemented and by whom. Panelists will examine the implementation of low-carbon transformations for urban infrastructure, with focus on data-driven urban sustainability governance and the politics of the transition to smart/low carbon cities. Considering the increasing role of cities in climate change governance, the growing visibility of urban actors in climate change politics, and the proliferation of smart and sustainable city policies, it is essential that we consider the nature of low carbon and smart city urbanism. How are visions of smart grids and low carbon technologies being embedded in urban infrastructure? Who is involved in planning, implementing, maintaining and engaging with these infrastructures? And what are the implications of smart/low carbon urbanism for democratic urban politics?
Interested participants should send abstracts of no more than 250 words to Anthony Levenda (email@example.com) and Laura Tozer (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Wednesday, September 20th. Accepted applicants will be notified by Monday, September 25th.