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Possibilities and problems with applying a consumption perspectivein local climate strategies: the case of Gothenburg, Sweden
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8360-4181
2016 (English)In: Journal of Cleaner Production, ISSN 0959-6526, E-ISSN 1879-1786, Vol. 134, p. 434-442Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Sweden has been praised for its sustainability efforts and decreasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.When nations and urban districts publicize their low GHG emissions, these emissions are often based on aproduction perspective including only emissions occurring within their geographical boundary. If insteada consumption perspective is applied then all emissions attributable to the inhabitants con-sumptionpatterns, no matter where they occur, are included, e.g. from imported goods and air travel. This providesnew outlooks on sustainability, from this perspective Swedish emissions have increased rather thandecreased in the last decades. Swedish researchers and the Swedish Environmental Pro-tection Agencypropose that the production perspective should be complemented with a consumption perspective todescribe more fairly who is responsible for what emissions. The purpose of this paper is to examine how aconsumption perspective on GHG emissions has gained ground in Sweden, specifically in the newStrategic Climate Program of the City of Gothenburg, discussing what municipal strategies andenvironmental discourses this perspective enhances. Applying actorenetwork theory, we found threecommon features of importance for Sweden, and the City of Gothenburg, supporting the consumptionperspective to gain ground. One is the existence of long-term environmental goals that facilitate thisperspective. The other features are the existence of civil servants as drivers and the use of calculationsfrom legitimate “fact builders.” We conclude that a consumption perspective strengthens the environmentaljustice discourse (as it claims to be a more just way of calculating global and local environmentaleffects) while possibly also increasing an individualized environmental discourse (as many municipalstrategies aim to inform and influence the public to make lifestyle changes on their own). We argue that aconsumption perspective is necessary in order to fully address environmental problems and to high-lightissues of justice and responsibility. At the same time, this kind of eco-governmentality might lead toindividualized self-governed climate subjects with outlooks that are too limited to foster change ofdominant everyday practices.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016. Vol. 134, p. 434-442
Keywords [en]
Consumption, GHG calculations, Cities, Eco-governmentality, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-200284DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2015.10.033OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-200284DiVA, id: diva2:1067811
Note

QC 20170123

Available from: 2017-01-23 Created: 2017-01-23 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Unpacking Swedish Sustainability: The promotion and circulation of sustainable urbanism
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Unpacking Swedish Sustainability: The promotion and circulation of sustainable urbanism
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Sweden has been praised for its achievements, and promoted as a role model, in sustainable urban development. This thesis, comprising five separate articles and a cover essay, is a critical study of the Swedish urban sustainable imaginary. The first article examines how this imaginary is produced. Using an actor-network theory approach, I view the Swedish pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 as a node in a wider network, arguing that the notion of decoupling GDP growth from CO2 emissions constitutes a central storyline.

The second and third papers study the circulation of this imaginary in practice, specifically examining two cases of exporting Swedish sustainable urban planning to Chinese eco-city projects. Few of these plans, I note, were materialised in built form; rather, they contributed to the circulation of a repetitive model of sustainable urbanism, reinforcing a paradoxical idea of urban sustainability as “green islands of privilege”.

The storyline of decoupling – and the circulating business of sustainable urbanism into which it feeds – is based on a deficient territorial view of space. In this research, I advocate a political ecology perspective and relational view of space, wherein there are no such things as sustainable or unsustainable cities. Rather, planning should aim for more just socio-environmental relations within and across urban borders. The fourth and fifth papers address the wider question of how planning can foster more socio-environmentally just forms of urban sustainability. Here, I emphasise a consumption perspective on greenhouse gas emissions as an important counter-narrative and analyse two Swedish municipalities’ efforts to lessen citizens’ consumption through policy and planning practice.  

This research highlights the need to continuously develop and contest imaginaries and planning practices of sustainability, of who is perceived as “sustainable” and what a socio-environmentally just perspective might mean in practice for policy makers and planners alike.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2017. p. 151
Series
TRITA-SOM, ISSN 1653-6126 ; 978-91-7729-249-4
Keywords
Urban sustainability; Sweden; Eco-cities; GHG calculations; Political ecology; Actor network-theory
National Category
Other Social Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-199955 (URN)978-91-7729-249-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-02-10, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, Stockholm, 09:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20170120

Available from: 2017-01-23 Created: 2017-01-20 Last updated: 2017-01-23Bibliographically approved

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