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A survey of urban climate change experiments in 100 cities

Castán Broto, V.; Bulkeley, H.A.

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V. Castán Broto


Cities are key sites where climate change is being addressed. Previous research has largely overlooked the multiplicity of climate change responses emerging outside formal contexts of decision-making and led by actors other than municipal governments. Moreover, existing research has largely focused on case studies of climate change mitigation in developed economies. The objective of this paper is to uncover the heterogeneous mix of actors, settings, governance arrangements and technologies involved in the governance of climate change in cities in different parts of the world. The paper focuses on urban climate change governance as a process of experimentation. Climate change experiments are presented here as interventions to try out new ideas and methods in the context of future uncertainties. They serve to understand how interventions work in practice, in new contexts where they are thought of as innovative. To study experimentation, the paper presents evidence from the analysis of a database of 627 urban climate change experiments in a sample of 100 global cities. The analysis suggests that, since 2005, experimentation is a feature of urban responses to climate change across different world regions and multiple sectors. Although experimentation does not appear to be related to particular kinds of urban economic and social conditions, some of its core features are visible. For example, experimentation tends to focus on energy. Also, both social and technical forms of experimentation are visible, but technical experimentation is more common in urban infrastructure systems. While municipal governments have a critical role in climate change experimentation, they often act alongside other actors and in a variety of forms of partnership. These findings point at experimentation as a key tool to open up new political spaces for governing climate change in the city.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Feb 1, 2012
Deposit Date Sep 11, 2012
Publicly Available Date Apr 29, 2014
Journal Global Environmental Change
Print ISSN 0959-3780
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 92-102
Keywords Climate change experiments, Mitigation, Adaptation, Governance, Cities, Infrastructure.
Public URL


Accepted Journal Article (840 Kb)

Copyright Statement
NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Global environmental change. 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 Global environmental change, 23(1), 2012, 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.07.005

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