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Low Carbon Action in Ordinary Cities

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - LO-ACT (Low Carbon Action in Ordinary Cities)

Reporting period: 2019-02-01 to 2020-07-31

The problem being addressed in LO-Act is the need for innovations for climate change that suit the needs of rapidly growing urban areas. It examines the problem at three scales:
First, from a global scale, the project engages with how cities and urban areas appear within the international climate regime.
Second, from a perspective focused on international flows and supply chains, the project focuses on how specific urban policies to tackle climate change travel across contexts.
Third, from a place-based perspective, the project explores what kind of actions are being implemented in urban environments, with particular attention to rapidly growing small and medium cities in West Africa, East Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
Finally, the project has a theoretical development component that builds upon empirical results to rethink the notion of messiness in climate change governance.
LO-Act results are important for society because they explore what to do in the context of the climate change emergency. They explore what to do in relation to what is being done, looking at the visions, processes, economies, and social practices that shape those actions. Because the world is undergoing a global urban transition, the project focuses on rapidly growing urban areas.
LO-Act objective is “to examine the impact of global environmental politics on climate change action in cities and the social and environmental outcomes of such action, directing research efforts towards initiatives that support the development and harmonisation of a global, multi-level partnership to tackle climate change.”
The specific objectives of LO-ACT are:
Objective 1: Understand the mobilisation of discourses of subnational action in global environmental politics attending at how they shape the conditions of possibility for local action in ordinary cities.
Objective 2: Explain the translation of social, technological and institutional innovation across locations in relation to the course of climate change policies.
Objective 3: Identify the patterns of local action associated with international climate change commitments in ordinary cities, and the impacts of such action in the everyday life of urban citizens.
Objective 4: Reimagine current theorisations of climate change politics and urban governance with a conceptual and methodological toolbox that engages with messiness, unusual spaces, and change in-the-making.
At this stage, the bulk of the work has focused on Objectives 1, 3 and 4.
In relation to objective 1 the project has:
• Conducting a systematic review of relevant documents explaining how cities are imagined in international climate change politics.
• Conducted a systematic review of academic literature on the topic.
• Started an archive of key literature.
• Conduct over 100 interviews with key experts in the field.
In relation to objective 3 the project has:
• Compiling evidence systematically in a database of actions.
• Exploring specific patterns of transitions (innovation, participation, role of the state) through collaborative work.
• Linking place-based action with environmental justice concerns about social and environmental impacts.
In relation to objective 4 the project has:
• Mobilised the notion of messiness and its relation to current debates on the politics of climate change.
• Started a systematic review of the concepts of order and messiness.
In addition, the paper has undertaken a varied range of communication activities, from keynotes and conference presentations to visual materials and regular twitter engagement.
The project has so far gone beyond the state of the art with the following insights demonstrable through the project's publications:
1. Demonstrated the changes in thinking about cities in global environmental politics, and the change towards a pragmatist, and more evaluative orientation in terms of thinking climate action at the local level.
2. Shown different factors that affect action at the local level, with particular reference to the case of China. Publications include thinking about participation in environmental governance in China, reflecting upon the conditions that enable sustainability transitions in different cities (including the development of a framework to examine that) and rethinking the role of the nation state in experimental politics.
3. Explored environmental justice theory and its applicability in urban environments.
4. Provided an initial assessment of the concept of messiness in relation to theories of government.

The project expects to go beyond the state of the art by bringing a new conceptualization of climate change governance that addresses conditions of rapidly growing urban areas.