Research on the governance of climate change in urban areas has looked both at the interest in local and sub-national arenas for climate action and at the consequences of such action across scales. This chapter offers a synthesis of three recurrent ideas that inform this area of scholarship. First, it looks into social learning as a means to understand the broader cultural and institutional changes required for a socio-technical transition beyond separate processes of technological innovation. Second, it provides a short overview of the development of the concept of experimentation to explain how multiple actors enact different means to intervene in cities so that actions map onto specific consequences and indicators of transition. Third, the chapter describes how the deployment of experiments results in inherent contradictions. These contradictions help to visualize structural constraints for action and motivate further action beyond the specific processes of experimentation at work.
Ping Huang and Vanesa Castán Broto
Recent scholarly developments in energy transitions research, in dialogue with urban studies, have argued for a ‘spatial turn’. Sustainability transitions studies often overlook the spatial dimensions of transition and this may lead to simplistic ideas about how general sustainability models work in specific contexts. The uncritical transference of compact city models for low-carbon development, for example, is a case in point. In the chapter, the authors propose a three-aspect framework – spatial organization, political contestations and urban governance – to analyse the spatial dynamics of urban energy transitions. In this framework, urban practices are viewed as both constituents and consequences of energy transitions. The analysis of two empirical cases of solar water heating and solar photovoltaic innovation in two Chinese cities operationalize this framework. These two examples show how an explicit consideration of space in energy transitions reveals the everyday politics of technology and the vital materialities that shape their operation.
Louise Guibrunet and Vanesa Castán Broto
Urbanization, a defining characteristic of our modern times, is a multidimensional process that involves both social and spatial transformations, within and beyond the boundaries of any given city. Urbanization today cannot be understood without examining the informal city. Informality refers to patterns of spatial organization, social relations, and economic exchanges which emerge in a variety of settings such as urban sprawl or the globalization of urban economic markets. Informality is crucial not just because it represents an important share of the existing and future urban fabric and economy of many world cities, but also because it relates to the myriad of ways in which everyday citizens go about their lives, thus shaping the city and its relation to the environment. Given the importance of informality in making the city, studies of urban metabolism (that is, flows of natural resources and materials through the urban system) may lose relevance if they are not able to engage with informality as a subject of study. In this chapter we advocate for an urban metabolism analysis that, while engaging with material flows and the political economy of the city, recognizes the dynamics of informal settlements and their importance in the making of the modern city. Urban metabolism is here a strategy to unravel the political ecology of the city, and in particular, how formal and informal relations shape material and political exchanges between cities and the environment.