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Jonathan Rutherford

This chapter provides a critical overview of and contribution to existing work examining how actors at various levels and in differing positions are envisaging and implementing change in or to cities in a broad shift towards greater sustainability. While noting the ‘role’ that cities are seen to have in contributing to major systemic societal changes, I argue that there are diverging perspectives on how and why the urban matters in any transition. Three strands of research are mobilized to bring out key issues: sustainability transitions research emerging from the ‘transitions’ school which has become increasingly sensitized to questions of place and space; work on eco-cities and green urbanism; and recent analyses of urban energy and low carbon transformations. By focusing on urban sustainability transitions rather than sustainability transitions in cities, the aim is to show how cities or urban areas are more than just another context for wider or more general dynamics, and that, instead, urban processes and practices have to be seen as fully constitutive of the nature, modalities, outcomes and possibilities of societal or socio-technical transitions.