Our Common Future Under Climate Change

International Scientific Conference 7-10 JULY 2015 Paris, France

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Thursday 9 July - 16:30-18:00 UNESCO Fontenoy - ROOM IV

4415 (b) -Transformative solutions for urban sustainability governance: Multi-level government and cross-sectoral collaboration for efficient climate action

Parallel Session

Lead Convener(s): A. Marques (ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Bonn, Germany), S. Burch (University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)

Convener(s): T. Elmqvist (Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm, Sweden)


Transformative solutions for urban sustainability governance: Multi-level government and cross-sectoral collaboration for effective and efficient climate action

T. Elmqvist (Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm, Sweden)

Abstract details
Transformative solutions for urban sustainability governance: Multi-level government and cross-sectoral collaboration for effective and efficient climate action

T. Elmqvist (1)
(1) Stockholm University, Stockholm resilience centre, Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract content

In this session we will focus on transformative solutions for urban sustainability governance. After more than two decades of attempting to address climate change and broader sustainability challenges through a global regime, progress has been largely incremental and piecemeal. Despite a rich theoretical tradition that increasingly addresses the normative issues in global environmental governance, and considers the crucial role of non-state actors, the application of this theory to practice often retains a biophysical or managerial lens rather than a deeply normative or socio-political one. Transformative actions are emerging, however, that may deepen resilience and trigger effective climate change adaptation and mitigation.  These actions are particularly abundant at the urban scale, drawing upon novel constellations of actors, resources, and engagement strategies.

Responding to the global environmental challenge requires a deepened understanding of how urban areas relate with the environment and how they transform it. New areas of research are needed that explore the dynamics of urbanization, including the globalization of urban lifestyles and diets, which must take into account urban complexities and urban resilience for refurbished governance and urban transformations.

Collaborative engagement that includes non-state actors, non-governmental networks and civil society provides a deeper and better understanding of the complexity that comes with bridging human and biophysical dimensions of environmental policy, including social-ecological dynamics, in order to bring about sustainable development in urban contexts. This requires a shift in thinking within governance that embodies transformative pathways – with the international tools in hand (i.e., MRV regulation, transparent reporting of climate action), as well as deeper engagement with a variety of stakeholders to help build a meaningful, legitimate, and ultimately effective mode of “urban sustainability governance.”

To this end, this panel brings together key scholars and leading experts on local government climate action to propose new insights into participatory, inclusive action that engages non-state actors.

The session proposed will be focused on urban environments (cities) and their climate action transformations. Examples of successful transformative dynamics and solutions tested in and demonstrated by cities will be highlighted. The session includes new insights into community-based action research on climate change; guiding principles in governance at multiple scales for efficient urban transformations; the drivers of unsustainable development paths; collective action with involvement of diverse knowledge-and-power domains and multi-stakeholder engagement towards creating transformative pathways at the local level; and approaches to standardized, transparent emissions reporting.


Urbanisation, sustainability and transformation - from local decisions to global goals

B. Webb (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia), X. Bai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia), M. Stafford-Smith (Climate Adaptation Flagship - CSIRO, Black Mountain, Australia)

Abstract details
Urbanisation, sustainability and transformation - from local decisions to global goals

B. Webb (1) ; X. Bai (2) ; M. Stafford-Smith (3)
(1) Australian National University, Fenner School of Enviornment and Society, Canberra, Australia; (2) Australian National University, Canberra, Australia; (3) Climate Adaptation Flagship - CSIRO, Black Mountain, Australia

Abstract content

Urbanisation with its attendant resource and social pressures is an increasingly dominant feature of development. Substantial research addresses sustainable urban development. However, whilst there are important attempts at integration, from a ‘whole of systems’ perspective much of the research has been partial and fragmented. Understandably public and private sector decision makers find it difficult to encompass the full range of issues, whilst also facing a range of risks and uncertainties (including, but not only, climate change).

With much of the growth in urbanisation still to come, there is a window of opportunity to address the complex and multi-level issues from the local, regional and national decision-makers perspective. At the same time development of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, many directly relevant to urban directions, provide an overall context to address the many trade-offs and synergies faced in practice by urban decision-makers.

The presentation describes an initiative currently under development to use a wide range of Asian and Australasian urban case studies to systematically investigate:

  • the extent of two-way interactions between urbanisation and sustainable development goals at local, regional and global levels

  • identification and analysis of the most critical trade-offs and synergies that need to be addressed by urban decision makers at local, regional and national levels if they are to achieve sustainable, equitable, inclusive and resilient development

  • the preconditions and mechanisms for cities to achieve the transitional and transformational change necessary to address the above issues

  • the extent to which the key choices,  trade-offs and synergies, and the transformational preconditions identified, can be related to various urban characteristics and typologies; this to better understand the potential for (and limitations in) transferability of insights, learning, practices and strategies.

It is crucial to reveal and understand these key inter-linkages, which are not always apparent, but can present both challenges (unintended outcomes or even derailment of an intervention) and opportunities (identifying the leverage points for generating and realising co-benefits). The initiative will aim to provide practical integrated cross-sector guidance to urban decision-makers at various levels, on the key strategic issues and choices they face, and relevant to their context. It also aims to develop underpinning scientific insights including a robust set of frameworks that will facilitate understanding and analysis of the impacts of various urbanisation choices and futures, at multiple levels of analysis, and so contribute more generally to future research methodology and practice.

The approach to be taken to the initiative includes analysis through research and stakeholder partnerships and collaborations with a diversity of case study cities and scales to be included; trans/inter-disciplinary approaches including knowledge co-design/development with stakeholders, recognising that multiple decision makers and other stakeholders need to be engaged to reflect the initiative’s decision-centred approach; viewing cities as complex emergent socio-ecological systems with many possible future urban pathways which need to encompass incremental and transitional as well as transformational change.

Whilst the initial case study focus is on Asia and Australasia the approaches and findings will draw on and contribute to broader international initiatives, including Future Earth.


Urban transitions

D. Loorbach (Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, Rotterdam, Netherlands)

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Urban transitions

D. Loorbach (1)
(1) Dutch Research Institute for Transitions, Rotterdam, Netherlands

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Urban transformations are complex and shockwise processes of change cocreated by formal and informal types of governance. This presentations draws from the experiences with urban transition labs to reflect upon the dynamics of urban sustainability transitions, its inherent polical dimension and their governance. Cities are the breeding ground for transformative changes. Not only are cities confronted directly with the impacts of unsustainability, they are also the contexts in which the high density of actors, technologies, capital and knowledge leads to experimentation and social innovation. This presentation will build upon transition studies to reflect on the mechanisms, dynamics and patterns underlying the complex and shockwise process of urban sustainability transitions. One of the features of such urban transitions is that they are inherently political: new forms of agency and governance challenge mainstream thoughts, structures and cultures to create space for transformation. It will introduce the idea of governance panarchy in this contexts: the emerging contexts in which different actors at different levels develop informal and formal governance structures to address specific complex problems. These range from local cooperaves to public-private partnerships, cizen juries, parcipatory planning and social entrepreneurship. Urban transition management takes this emerging context as the basis for developing the meta-governance framework of urban transition labs.


Driving change through effective local climate action, collaboration and integrated solutions

A. Marques (ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Bonn, Germany), A. Pickens (ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Bonn, Germany), Y. Arikan (ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Bonn, Germany), M. Van Staden (ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Bonn, Germany)

Abstract details
Driving change through effective local climate action, collaboration and integrated solutions

A. Marques (1) ; A. Pickens (2) ; Y. Arikan (2) ; M. Van Staden (1)
(1) ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Low carbon cities / carbonn climate registry center, Bonn, Germany; (2) ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Global policy and advocacy, Bonn, Germany

Abstract content

Setting the scene for inclusive and decisive global climate regime is not done in an isolated manner. Transformative climate action requires multi-level government and cross-sectoral collaboration for ensuring low-emission, climate-resilient development in the urban world.

Local Governments can have significant impacts on local markets and on the large-scale delivery of low emission development technologies and practices, through their mandates and different roles as policy maker, regulator, service provider and consumer (procurement processes).

This presentation focuses on the change system which is being implemented by ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability* and other local government networks, from the definition of a common global vision and strategy that enables the recognition, engagement, and empowerment of local and subnational governments, to the main methodologies and tools used for the collaborative identification of transformative pathways at local level. Results are presented and key barriers and opportunities are identified and discussed.

This presentation also explores the different processes, methodologies and tools ICLEI uses to identify the local unique context and priorities, and catalyze broader engagement from different actors, including the business community, to foster the development of long-term Low Emissions development Strategies (LEDS) and design and implementation of low-carbon projects and programs which are adequate to the local needs. A Measurement, Reporting and Verification framework of local climate action is also addressed, by using globally-recognized methodologies for consistency, comparison and aggregation across different entities and initiatives. Transparent reporting of local climate data is essential to ensure the credibility and empowerment of local governments as partners in the global climate regime.

As conclusion from the multiple initiatives analyzed, collaborative engagement emerges as enabler for the sharing of best practices, vertical-integration of policies and investment plans across multi- levels of government, mainstreaming low-carbon strategies into all sectors of urban planning and development, and fast-tracking climate action.


(*ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability is an international association of Local Governments which has more than 1000 members in 86 countries.)


Sustainability governance: the role of entrepreneurs in triggering transformative development pathway shifts

S. Burch (University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)

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Sustainability governance: the role of entrepreneurs in triggering transformative development pathway shifts

S. Burch (1)
(1) University of Waterloo, Geography and Environmental Management, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Abstract content

Sustainability transitions are fluid and multi-faceted phenomena, and may be characterized by multiple ‘false starts,’ punctuated equilibria, and contradictory pressures (such as a shifting political landscape and economic stressors).  Many of these transitions are taking place at very small, community-based scales, and are driven by grassroots or bottom-up initiatives. While the idiosyncrasies of a particular urban context may strain our capacity to garner lessons that apply to other cities, social learning is a crucial dimension of accelerated sustainability transitions.  In particular, cases of established leadership and innovative responses to sustainability challenges provide important insights into the roots, enabling factors, and various pathways that sustainability transitions might follow. 


Despite increasingly frequent engagement with large corporate partners, cities rarely have the capacity to meaningfully engage with the abundant variety of small businesses that contribute much of the innovation necessary for a transition to low carbon, resilient communities.  These entrepreneurs are often characterized by the ability to rapidly take advantage of opportunities that others might view as risks, and create the ‘radical novelties’ that are central to sustainability transitions.  In this talk, I explore the role that entrepreneurs in general, but small businesses in particular, can play in sustainability transitions.  I investigate novel mechanisms that are emerging that might contribute to more effective governance of this group of non-state actors, and the potential that a multi-level governance approach might have to accelerate innovation. 


Panel discussion

X. Bai (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia), A. Marques (ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, Bonn, Germany), S. Burch (University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada), T. Elmqvist (Stockholm Resilience Center, Stockholm, Swed

Abstract details
Panel discussion
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