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The circulation of Swedish urban sustainability practices: to China and back
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Urban Planning and Environment, Urban and Regional Studies.
2015 (English)In: Environment and planning A, ISSN 0308-518X, E-ISSN 1472-3409, Vol. 47, no 3, 537-553 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper explores the effects and underlying intentions of Swedish practices of exporting sustainable development models to Chinese ecocities. Under the 'bestpractice' banner, international architectural firms are often invited to masterplan ecocity developments. The 'sustainable city' has thus become an export commodity, supported by the Swedish government and seen as especially suited to the Chinese ecocity market. Two cases are examined, where Swedish architecture firms have been commissioned to masterplan Chinese ecocities: the Caofedian and Wuxi Eco-cities. In particular, I examine three kinds of 'effects': first, the planning discourse manifested in the planning documents; second, how these plans materialize on the ground; and, third, the effects of this exported planning practice on Swedish policy and practice at home. This paper advances our understanding of how transnational urban sustainability practices are constructed and circulated. It further adds to the field of planning mobilities by examining not only the discourse and diffusion of transnational master planning but also how the 'export' circulates and returns. I argue that the two intentional logics of exporting the Swedish 'sustainable city'-to shape a better world and to export clean-tech products-could both be seen as having failed in these two cases. Instead, the naming and branding of the ecocities seem to boost a certain repetitive problematic idea and practice of sustainable urban development. I argue that the Swedish exported practice strengthens and legitimizes a circulating narrative establishing a sustainable urban planning practice fostering a paradoxically generic image of upper-middle-class consumers as ecocity inhabitants in China as well as in Sweden.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 47, no 3, 537-553 p.
Keyword [en]
ecocity, Sweden, sustainable urban development, China, ecological modernization
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-166361DOI: 10.1068/a130320pISI: 000352365600004Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84925409544OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-166361DiVA: diva2:810603
Note

QC 20150507

Available from: 2015-05-07 Created: 2015-05-07 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically 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. 151 p.
Series
TRITA-SOM, ISSN 1653-6126 ; 978-91-7729-249-4
Keyword
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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