Strategic urban governance of transition in household practices

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Several studies have indicated that urban governance is in different ways intertwined with transitions in socio-technical systems (see e.g. Bulkeley et al. 2011). For example, some local authorities attempt to gain degrees of influence and control over regimes in order to achieve territorial priorities (Hodson and Marvin 2010). It has been argued that such governance initiatives do seldom represent transition paths in themselves, due to the delimited focus on the urban scale (Geels 2011). However, these governance initiatives still represent important transition activities that need to be addressed more specifically in relation to sustainable transitions.

In this paper, we wish to contribute to the on-going discussions about the role of urban governance in sustainable transitions by analyzing what role lock-in of daily routines play in relation to strategic attempts to promote sustainable technologies at the urban scale. In doing this, we more specifically challenge the technological emphasis in strategic niche management (Kemp et al. 1998) by pointing to developing a broader conception of niche management, which also addresses changes in daily routines of practitioners. We forward this point based on the work by Shove and Walker (2010), who note that practitioners are actively involved in making and reproducing socio-technical systems. We especially wish to put forward this point in relation to discussions about what role urban governance initiatives may play in transitions in socio-technical systems, since local authorities often face the challenging lock-in of daily routines, when attempting to promote different kinds of sustainable urban development projects.

The paper is based on an in-depth case study of an urban governance initiative aimed at promoting low energy dwellings in a new urban development area in Denmark. This governance initiative is especially interesting in terms of addressing the issue of daily routines in relation to sustainable technology implementation, since the urban development project illustrates the influence that everyday norms and expectations play in relation to implementation of more energy efficient technologies. Through the case study, we show how some technologies are easily implemented – and hence important technological niches have been established – whereas some technologies are resisted and turned down by the practitioners. Based on the case study, the paper discusses the challenge of strategically promoting sustainable practices through governance initiatives at the urban scale. An important argument in the paper is that local authorities are well positioned to take on the challenge of engaging with transitions in household practices, which underlines the importance of addressing transition activities at the urban scale.
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StatusUdgivet - 2013