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Practices, programs and projects of urban carbon governance: Perspectives from the Australian city

McGuirk, Pauline; Bulkeley, Harriet; Dowling, Robyn

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Pauline McGuirk

Robyn Dowling


This paper addresses the governance of transitions to lower carbon cities. Drawing on both governmentality and neo-Gramscian perspectives, we chart and explore the diverse objects, subjects, means and ends evoked as governmental programs, or hegemonic projects in-the-making, are shaped to orchestrate urban carbon governance. We ask about the diversity of what is being sought through the governance of carbon in the city, how this is rendered and how carbon is being made to matter in the city. We do so through analysis of an audit of carbon governance initiatives in Australian cities, and a characterisation of these initiatives as four distinctive governmental programs. To make sense of the diverse ecology of initiatives revealed, we adopt a typological approach to suggest four distinctive governmental programs—Behaviour change; Demonstration; Transition; and Advocacy. We suggest that Australia’s emergent landscape of urban carbon governance both reproduces existing governance orderings and contains openings—via fragile emergent hegemonic projects—that might produce more transformative orderings: not least because of the demands and politics the low carbon subjects being invoked might be empowered to pursue but also because of the potential reconfiguration of the ‘integral state’ as new governmental programs are imagined and enacted.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Mar 1, 2014
Deposit Date Jun 10, 2014
Publicly Available Date Jul 16, 2014
Journal Geoforum
Print ISSN 0016-7185
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 52
Pages 137-147
Keywords Urban carbon governance, Gramsci, Governmentality, Hegemonies in-the-making, Australia.
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (694 Kb)

Copyright Statement
NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Geoforum. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Geoforum, 52, 2014, 10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.01.007.

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