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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Laura Tozer

Tozer, Laura (2018). Urban climate change and sustainability planning: an analysis of sustainability and climate change discourses in local government plans in Canada. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management 61(1): 176-194.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper clarifies the competing discourses of sustainability and climate change and examines the manifestation of these discourses in local government planning. Despite the increasingly significant role of sustainability and climate change response in urban governance, it is unclear whether local governments are constructing different discourses that may result in conflicting approaches to policy-making. Using a governmentality approach, this paper dissects the contents of 15 Canadian local governments’ sustainability plans. The findings show that there are synergies and tensions between discourses of sustainability and climate change. Both share discursive space and shape local governance rationalities, though climate change response logics are not necessarily highlighted even where the action could result in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions. In some cases, existing GHG intensive practices are being rebranded as ‘sustainable’. This suggests a tension between discourses of sustainability and climate change that may complicate attempts to address climate change through local sustainability planning.