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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The urban governance of climate change : a comparative socio-institutional analysis of transformative urban responses to climate change in Durban (South Africa) and Portland (OR, USA) Aylett, Alexander C.E.


This dissertation investigates the socio-political dynamics of urban attempts to address climate change in a systemic, rather than project-based or piecemeal, fashion. It focuses on the actions of both municipal and civil-society actors, as well as their interactions through formal and informal processes of participation and collaboration. It contributes to the larger re-theorization of the urban scale as a potentially powerful locus for action on climate change that has arisen as international climate negotiations have faltered (Betsill 2001, Bulkeley and Betsill 2003, 2005, Burch 2009, Kousky & Schneider 2003). Focusing on two exceptional cities at the forefront of urban climate policy, this dissertation looks more closely at the difficult work involved in relocalizing meaningful climate action to the urban scale. Based on comparative qualitative research conducted in Durban (KZN, South Africa) and Portland (OR, USA) this dissertation investigates how cities can make a transition from a limited project-based approach to more integrated and transformative responses to climate change. As I will show, systemic responses to climate change require, above all, a transition from climate government to climate governance (Bridge & Perreault 2009, Hajer 2003). Far-reaching transformations of urban systems lie beyond what any one actor can impose or direct. Effective climate responses therefore depend on the diffusion of policy making, management, and implementation along networks that draw together government actors traditionally isolated by bureaucratic silos, as well as private companies, civil-society groups, and citizens. Contributing to a clearer understanding of networks of urban climate governance, this dissertation focuses on two key facets of the creation of networks of urban climate governance. First it examines the institutional dynamics that take place within municipal bureaucracies, as policy leaders build support for integrated and ambitious climate policies. This contributes to the broad literature on organizational behaviour and change (Veblen 1914, Merton 1940, March and Olsen 1989, Schoenberger 1997, Latour 1987). Second, contributing to the literature on public participation and governance (Arnstein 1969, Taylor & Fransman 2004, Holmes & Scoones 2000, Silver et al. 2010, de Souza 2006 ) it analyses how civil-society actors shape and even lead ambitious urban responses to climate change.

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