Session 25: Contested agendas or aligned objectives? Intermediation and the role of non-state actors in the low carbon urban transition


Session Abstract

This session examined the different ways in which state and non-state stakeholders come together in order to propose and advance a low carbon urban transition. The focus is on the varied roles that different actors play, the ways in which these actors mobilize climate change logics in the context of their own agendas, and the ways in which such efforts result in contested agendas or aligned objectives in relation to the city's future. It considered climate change responses beyond institutional contexts, where agents located at different governance levels (from municipalities to transnational organizations) interact with both state and non-state partners (business, academia, NGOs) in the visualization and implementation of low carbon responses. The notion of ‘intermediation' (Bourdieu 1984, Callon 1986, Iles and Yolles 2002, van Lente, Hekkert et al. 2003, Latour 2005) plays a key role, as multiple agents and organizations get involved in the development of capacity for low carbon, through activities such as management, service delivery, consulting, co-ordination, technology provision, lobbying, awareness-raising and others (Hodson, Marvin et al. 2013). These intermediation processes play a key role in aligning the objectives of different urban stakeholders towards common goals. Yet, they are not exempt from tension and conflict, revealing multiple -and often conflicting- urban agendas at play.

This session was organized by the International Network on Urban Low Carbon Urban Transitions (INCUT), an international network of academic researchers and practitioner organizations that jointly examines how cities across the globe are responding to the challenges posed by climate change. INCUT is based at Durham University in the United Kingdom, and composed of researchers based at academic and practitioner organizations located in Europe as well as Australia, China, India, South Africa and the United States. 

Keywords: Comparative urbanism, intermediaries, low carbon transition, non-state actors, urban politics, governance


Key Discussion Points

  • Historical perspectives are important for the low carbon transitions framework, as they are represented politically through inequalities, development models, and the creation of contemporary conditions.
  • There is conflict in ways of thinking about low carbon, e.g., how residents of a city might consider these transitions in comparison to businesses or the private sector.
  • Low carbon experimentation is a technique for understanding the boundaries of urban responses.
  • Why talk about low carbon transitions instead of sustainability transitions or zero carbon transitions?  Why is one concept or framework given importance over others?  There seems to be a difference between regions regarding which phrase it used as well as the importance of those concepts; e.g., in Australia, low carbon agendas have become less and less popular due to the political climate, which favors ‘adaptation’.  



Harriet Bulkeley, Durham University, Durham, UK

Andrés Luque-Ayala, Durham University, Durham, UK

Simon Marvin, Durham University, Durham, UK



Andrés Luque-Ayala, Durham University, Durham, UK

Presentation Title: Urban low carbon transition pathways: An analytical framework

Mikael Granberg, Karlstad University, Karlstad, Sweden

Presentation Title: Local government, climate change and public-private interaction: The case of Orebro, Sweden

Susie Moloney, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

Presentation Title: Local government climate change alliances as intermediaries in low carbon urban transitioning in Victoria, Australia

Sara Fuller, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

Presentation Title: Positioning the university as an urban climate change actor: Governance, responsibility and opportunity

Jonathan Rutherford, Universite Paris Est, Paris, France

Presentation Title: Strategies, scenarios and politics of decarbonization in Paris


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