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Durham University

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Publication details

Tozer, Laura (2020). Catalyzing political momentum for the effective implementation of decarbonization for urban buildings. Energy Policy 136: 111042.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper expands the toolkit available to consider the effectiveness of urban climate responses by examining political effectiveness in the implementation of urban decarbonization initiatives. By focusing on the politics of implementation, this approach complements dominant approaches for assessing effectiveness that emphasize greenhouse gas emission accounting. Drawing on case studies of urban building low carbon governance in Stockholm, London and San Francisco incorporating 40 expert interviews, the analysis provides insight into whether climate change mitigation measures are catalyzing political momentum that is untangling fossil fuels from institutions. It finds that urban decarbonization is gaining political momentum when it comes to new buildings, although with concerning implications for inequality and uneven development, but systemic change is limited since efforts to target existing buildings are stumbling over challenges. Two key insights are highlighted: 1) reframing the policy goal of urban climate mitigation to decarbonization productively refocuses attention on systemic change; 2) effective urban carbon governance is not only about providing instrumental tools, but it also involves triggering political dynamics that build momentum. Future urban decarbonization initiatives should consider the complementary roles of offering instrumental solutions and catalyzing political momentum through implementation.