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The travelling business of sustainable urbanism: international consultants as norm-setters
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8360-4181
University College London.
2017 (English)In: Environment and planning A, ISSN 0308-518X, E-ISSN 1472-3409, Vol. 49, no 8, p. 1779-1796Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper examines the international travels of ideas about sustainable urban planning and design through a focus on private sector architecture, planning and engineering consultants. These consultants, who we refer to as the Global Intelligence Corps (GIC), package up their expertise in urban sustainability as a marketable commodity, and apply it on projects around the world. In doing so the GIC shape norms about what constitutes ‘good’ sustainable urban planning, and contribute to the development of an internationalised travelling model of sustainable urbanism. This paper draws on a broad study of the industry (GIC) in sustainable urban planning and design, and two in-depth case studies of Swedish GIC firms working on Chinese Eco-city projects. Analysis of this material illustrates how the GIC’s work shapes a traveling model of sustainable urbanism, and how this in turn creates and reinforces particular norms in urban planning practice.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2017. Vol. 49, no 8, p. 1779-1796
National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-200285DOI: 10.1177/0308518X16686069ISI: 000405876100006Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85025086653OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-200285DiVA, id: diva2:1067814
Note

QC 20170123

Available from: 2017-01-23 Created: 2017-01-23 Last updated: 2017-11-28Bibliographically 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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