Rethinking Urban Transitions : Politics in the Low Carbon City book cover
1st Edition

Rethinking Urban Transitions
Politics in the Low Carbon City

ISBN 9781138057401
Published March 26, 2018 by Routledge
274 Pages 22 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Rethinking Urban Transitions provides critical insight for societal and policy debates about the potential and limits of low carbon urbanism. It draws on over a decade of international research, undertaken by scholars across multiple disciplines concerned with analysing and shaping urban sustainability transitions. It seeks to open up the possibility of a new generation of urban low carbon transition research, which foregrounds the importance of political, geographical and developmental context in shaping the possibilities for a low carbon urban future.

The book’s contributions propose an interpretation of urban low carbon transitions as primarily social, political and developmental processes. Rather than being primarily technical efforts aimed at measuring and mitigating greenhouse gases, the low carbon transition requires a shift in the mode and politics of urban development. The book argues that moving towards this model requires rethinking what it means to design, practise and mobilize low carbon in the city, while also acknowledging the presence of multiple and contested developmental pathways. Key to this shift is thinking about transitions, not solely as technical, infrastructural or systemic shifts, but also as a way of thinking about collective futures, societal development and governing modes – a recognition of the political and contested nature of low carbon urbanism. The various contributions provide novel conceptual frameworks as well as empirically rich cases through which we can begin to interrogate the relevance of socio-economic, political and developmental dimensions in the making or unmaking of low carbon in the city. The book draws on a diverse range of examples (including ‘world cities’ and ‘ordinary cities’) from North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Africa, India and China, to provide evidence that expectations, aspirations and plans to undertake purposive socio-technical transitions are both emerging and encountering resistance in different urban contexts.

Rethinking Urban Transitions is an essential text for courses concerned with cities, climate change and environmental issues in sociology, politics, urban studies, planning, environmental studies, geography and the built environment.

Table of Contents

List of contributors



  1. Introduction
  2. Andrés Luque-Ayala, Simon Marvin and Harriet Bulkeley

  3. Rethinking urban transitions: an analytical framework
  4. Andrés Luque-Ayala, Harriet Bulkeley and Simon Marvin


    Part I: Technologies, materialities, infrastructures

  5. Seeking effective infrastructures of decarbonisation in Paris: material politics of socio-technical change
  6. Jonathan Rutherford

  7. Legacies of energy autarky for low carbon urban transitions: a comparison of Berlin and Hong Kong
  8. Tim Moss and Maria Francesch-Huidobro

  9. The amenable city-region: the symbolic rise and the relative decline of Greater Manchester’s low carbon commitments, 2006-2017
    Mike Hodson, Simon Marvin and Andy McMeekin
  10. What is ‘carbon neutral’? Planning urban deep decarbonisation in North America
  11. Laura Tozer


    Part II: Intermediation and governance

  12. Reconfiguring spatial boundaries and institutional practices: mobilizing and sustaining urban low carbon transitions in Victoria, Australia
  13. Susie Moloney and Ralph Horne

  14. Strong local government moving to the market? The case of low carbon futures in the city of Örebro, Sweden
  15. Mikael Granberg

  16. Examining urban Africa’s low-carbon and energy transition pathways
  17. Jonathan Silver and Simon Marvin

  18. Localising environmental governance in India: mapping urban institutional structures
  19. Neha Sami


    Part III: Communities and subjectivities

  20. Governing carbon conduct and subjects: insights from Australian cities
  21. Robyn Dowling, Pauline McGuirk and Harriet Bulkeley

  22. Cultural conflicts and decarbonisation pathways: urban intensification politics as a site of contestation in Ottawa
  23. Matthew Paterson and Merissa Mueller

  24. Postdevelopment carbon
  25. Andrés Luque-Ayala



  26. Conclusions

Simon Marvin, Andrés Luque-Ayala and Harriet Bulkeley



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Andrés Luque-Ayala is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Durham University, UK.

Simon Marvin is Director of the Urban Institute and Professor at the University of Sheffield, UK. 

Harriet Bulkeley is Professor in the Department of Geography at Durham University, UK.