Urban Sustainability and the Governance of Greening

  • Julia Affolderbach
  • Christian Schulz
Part of the The Urban Book Series book series (UBS)


Cities have long been seen as important in achieving sustainability. However, conceptions of and approaches to urban sustainability and greening have changed over time from a primary focus of environmental problems as urban problems to cities as leaders in global climate change mitigation. This chapter provides a brief overview over the changes in understandings of and research on urban sustainability over the past few decades with a specific focus on governance and sustainability approaches. The literature review provides the context for situating and understanding green building transitions in the four case study regions where interpretations and implementations of green building have changed over time and need to be understood within the broader spatial and temporal context. The chapter introduces the concept of policy mobility and related work on urban assemblages that emphasise the relational character of local and urban processes. These perspectives understand cities as consisting of both local and global influences and elements. One emphasis of policy mobility is to understand these relationships through processes of learning, adaptation and mutation of knowledge and practises (e.g. green building policies, certification programs, planning approaches and construction techniques) between individuals and actor groups such as policy-makers, consultants, scientists, urban designers and architects. The chapter proposes an analytical framework that utilises the synergies of policy mobility and transition study approaches and that addresses the complexity of sustainability transitions as socio-spatial and socio-technical processes.


Urban low-carbon transitions Urban sustainability Governance Stakeholders Policy mobility Climate change governance 


  1. Affolderbach J, Schulz C (2016) Mobile transitions: exploring synergies for urban sustainability research. Urban Stud 53(9):1942–1957. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Affolderbach J, Schulz C (2017) Positioning Vancouver through urban sustainability strategies? The Greenest City 2020 Action Plan. J Clean Prod 164:676–685. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barton H (1998) Eco-neighbourhoods: a review of projects. Local Environment 3(2):159–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beatley T (2000) Green urbanism: learning from European cities. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  5. Beatley T, Manning K (1997) The ecology of place: planning for environment, economy, and community. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  6. Betsill MM (2001) Mitigating climate change in US cities: opportunities and obstacles. Local Environment 6(4):393–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bulkeley H (2005) Reconfiguring environmental governance: towards a politics of scales and networks. Polit Geogr 24(8):875–902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bulkeley H (2013) Cities and climate change. Routledge, London & New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bulkeley H, Betsill M (2005) Rethinking sustainable cities: multilevel governance and the ‘urban’ politics of climate change. Environ Polit 14(1):42–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bulkeley H, Kern K (2006) Local government and the governing of climate change in Germany and the UK. Urban Stud 43(12):2237–2259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bulkeley H, Castán Broto V, Hodson M, Marvin S (eds) (2011) Cities and low carbon transitions. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Campbell S (1996) Green cities, growing cities, just cities? Urban planning and the contradictions of sustainable development. J Am Plann Assoc 62(3):296–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clarke N (2012) Urban policy mobility, anti-politics, and histories of the transnational municipal movement. Prog Hum Geogr 36(1):25–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cook IR, Swyngedouw E (2012) Cities, social cohesion and the environment: towards a future research agenda. Urban Stud 49(9):1959–1979. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Craggs R, Neate H (2017) Post-colonial careering and urban policy mobility: between Britain and Nigeria, 1945–1990. Trans Inst Br Geogr 42(1):44–57. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Deangelo BJ, Harvey LD (1998) The jurisdictional framework for municipal action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: case studies from Canada, the USA and Germany. Local Environment 3(2):111–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. van Doren D, Driessen PP, Runhaar H, Giezen M (2016) Scaling-up low-carbon urban initiatives: towards a better understanding. Urban Stud. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Eden S (2000) Environmental issues: sustainable progress? Prog Hum Geogr 24(1):111–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. European Commission (2015) Indicators for sustainable cities. In: 12th Science for Environment Policy Report UWE, BristolGoogle Scholar
  20. Evans J (2011) Resilience, ecology and adaptation in the experimental city. Trans Inst Br Geogr 36(2):223–237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Fitzgerald J, Lenhart J (2016) Eco-districts: can they accelerate urban climate planning? Environ Plann C Gov Policy 34(2):364–380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Freytag T, Gössling S, Mössner S (2014) Living the green city: Freiburg’s Solarsiedlung between narratives and practices of sustainable urban development. Local Environ 19(6):644–659. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gibbs D, Jonas AE (2000) Governance and regulation in local environmental policy: the utility of a regime approach. Geoforum 31(3):299–313CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Haarstad H (2016) Where are urban energy transitions governed? Conceptualizing the complex governance arrangements for low-carbon mobility in Europe. Cities 54:4–10. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Haughton G, Hunter C (1994) Sustainable cities. Jessica Kingsley Publishers for the Regional Studies Association, LondonGoogle Scholar
  26. Hodson M, Burrai E, Barlow C (2016) Remaking the material fabric of the city: ‘alternative’ low carbon spaces of transformation or continuity? Environ Innov Soc Trans 18:128–146. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Holden M, Charling L, Molina A (2015) The emergence and spread of ecourban neighbourhoods around the world. Sustainability 7(9):11418–11437CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hoornweg D, Sugar L, Gomez CLT (2011) Cities and greenhouse gas emissions: moving forward. Environ Urban 23:207–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jacobs J (1965) The death and life of great American cities. Penguin Books, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Jonas AE, Gibbs D, While A (2011) The new urban politics as a politics of carbon control. Urban Stud 48(12):2537–2554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Joss S (2010) Eco-cities: a global survey 2009. The sustainable city VI: urban regeneration and sustainability. WIT Press, Southampton, pp 239–250Google Scholar
  32. Kenis A, Lievens M (2015) The limits of the green economy from re-inventing capitalism to re-politicising the present. Routledge studies in environmental policy. Routledge, OxonGoogle Scholar
  33. Krueger R, Gibbs D (2007) The sustainable development paradox: urban political economy in the United States and Europe. Guilford Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  34. Lombardi DR, Porter L, Barber A, Rogers CDF (2011) Conceptualising sustainability in UK urban regeneration: a discursive formation. Urban Stud 48(2):273–296. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Long J (2016) Constructing the narrative of the sustainability fix: sustainability, social justice and representation in Austin, TX. Urban Stud 53(1):149–172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Massey D (2005) For Space. Sage, LondonGoogle Scholar
  37. McCann E (2011) Veritable inventions: cities, policies and assemblage. Area 43(2):143–147. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McCann E (2013) Policy boosterism, policy mobilities, and the extrospective city. Urban Geogr 34(1):5–29. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McCann E, Ward K (2010) Relationality/territoriality: toward a conceptualization of cities in the world. Geoforum 41(2):175–184. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McCann E, Ward K (2011) Mobile urbanism: cities and policymaking in the global age, vol 17. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  41. McCauley SM, Stephens JC (2012) Green energy clusters and socio-technical transitions: analysis of a sustainable energy cluster for regional economic development in Central Massachusetts, USA. Sustain Sci 7(2):213–225. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McEvoy D, Gibbs D, Longhurst J (1999) The prospects for improved energy efficiency in the UK residential sector. J Environ Plann Manag 42(3):409–424CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McFarlane C (2009) Translocal assemblages: space, power and social movements. Geoforum 40:561–567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McFarlane C (2011) The city as assemblage: dwelling and urban space. Environ Plann D Soc Space 29(4):649–671. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Parra C, Moulaert F (2016) The governance of the nature-culture nexus: lessons learned from the San Pedro de Atacama Case Study. Nat Cult 11(3):239–258. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Peck J, Theodore N (2015) Fast policy: experimental statecraft at the threshold of neoliberalism. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rapoport E, Hult A (2017) The travelling business of sustainable urbanism: international consultants as norm-setters. Environ Plann A 49(8):1779–1796. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Raven R, Geels F (2010) Socio-cognitive evolution in niche development: comparative analysis of biogas development in Denmark and the Netherlands (1973–2004). Technovation 30(2):87–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Roseland M (1997) Dimensions of the eco-city. Cities 14(4):197–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Roseland M (2000) Sustainable community development: integrating environmental, economic, and social objectives. Prog Plann 54(2):73–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Rutherford J (2008) Unbundling Stockholm: the networks, planning and social welfare nexus beyond the unitary city. Geoforum 39(6):1871–1883CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rutherford J, Coutard O (2014) Urban energy transitions: places, processes and politics of socio-technical change. Urban Stud 51(7):1353–1377CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sayer A (1992) Method in social science: a realist approach, 2nd edn. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  54. Stone D (2012) Transfer and translation of policy. Policy Stud 33(6):483–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Temenos C, McCann E (2012) The local politics of policy mobility: learning, persuasion, and the production of a municipal sustainability fix. Environ Plann A 44(6):1389–1406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Temenos C, McCann E (2013) Geographies of policy mobilities. Geogr Compass 7(5):344–357. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. UNEP (2011) Towards a green economy: pathways to sustainable development and poverty eradication - A synthesis for policy makers,
  58. Vanolo A (2014) Smartmentality: the smart city as disciplinary strategy. Urban Stud 51(5):883–898CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Verbong GP, Geels FW (2010) Exploring sustainability transitions in the electricity sector with socio-technical pathways. Technol Forecast Soc Change 77(8):1214–1221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. WBGU (2016) Humanity on the move: unlocking the transformative power of cities. Flagship Report. German Advisory Council on Global Change, BerlinGoogle Scholar
  61. While A, Jonas AE, Gibbs D (2004) The environment and the entrepreneurial city: searching for the urban ‘sustainability; fix’ in Manchester and Leeds. Int J Urban Reg Res 28(3):549–569CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. While A, Jonas AE, Gibbs D (2010) From sustainable development to carbon control: eco-state restructuring and the politics of urban and regional development. Trans Inst Br Geogr 35(1):76–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Whitehead M (2003) (Re)Analysing the sustainable city: nature, urbanisation and the regulation of socio-environmental relations in the UK. Urban Stud 40(7):1183–1206CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Whitehead M (2012) The sustainable city: an obituary? On the future form and prospects of sustainable urbanism. In: The future of sustainable cities. Radical Reflections, pp 29–46Google Scholar
  65. Wilbanks TJ, Kates RW (1999) Global change in local places: how scale matters. Clim Change 43(3):601–628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Wilson D (2015) The rise of urban sustainability and this book. In: Wilson D (ed) The politics of the urban sustainability concept. Common Ground Publishing, Champaign, pp 1–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Affolderbach
    • 1
  • Christian Schulz
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geography, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of HullHullUK
  2. 2.Institute of Geography and Spatial PlanningUniversity of LuxembourgEsch-sur-AlzetteLuxembourg

Personalised recommendations