RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


333 Governance innovations for the urban nexus (1)
Affiliation Urban Geography Research Group
Convenor(s) Chiara Farné Fratini (Aalborg University, Denmark)
Ralitsa Hiteva (University of Sussex, UK)
Chair(s) Ralitsa Hiteva (University of Sussex, UK)
Timetable Friday 02 September 2016, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Session abstract Cities are locations of intense social, environmental and technical trade-offs, synergies and innovation. The increasing interdependencies and complexities of how separate elements (sectors, natural and built environment) within them interact with each other brings to the fore the politics of urban interconnections (e.g. asymmetries of power). Governing the water-energy-food-environment nexus calls for innovative approaches, which empower governing capacities across sectors, scales, the public and private spheres. These approaches will facilitate interconnections, minimise destructive trade-offs and inequalities and foster constructive nexus synergies. Building on Bulkeley et al. (2015) and Stirling’s (2015) work, this session considers urban nexus governance in terms of innovative and flexible arrangements (governance innovations), where diverse and uncertain pathways are collaboratively explored by multiple actors, in ways that deliberately challenge the effects of incumbent power across sectors and scales within cities, and build interconnections between institutional, technological and social silos. The notion of navigational governance (Jensen et al., 2015) for example, captures boundary-crossing activities (between sectors, scales and different types of actors) free from a pre-conceived and commonly agreed strategic vision or pathway, which tends to perpetuate relatively well-established interests, objectives and power-relations among actors. Such notions recognise that no single actor is capable of identifying and implementing appropriate governance approaches from a privileged position. This suggests moving away from thinking about governance of the urban nexus in terms of ‘steering’ (by e.g. coordinating short-sighted activities through pathways derived from a shared longsighted systems imaginary) and ‘nudging’ (prioritising some practices, technologies and actors over others). But instead focusing on innovative and inclusive ‘governance structures’ which enable knowledge-sharing and the ownership of knowledge, and enhancing individuals, communities and collectives’ capacity to act; thus empowering citizens and users rather than imposing ‘top down’ and expert-led arrangements. This session welcomes both empirical case studies and conceptual contributions that consider innovations in governance of the urban nexus (water-energy-food-environment) that: Enable the creation of flexible arrangements; such that a choice of alternatives courses of action are left open in the medium and long-term, in contrast to patterns of early ‘lock-in’ to a particular policy trajectory, technology and set of interests; Facilitate structures, cultures and practices of connecting, relating, interlinking and intermediating across sectors, technologies, actors and scales of governance; Include the maximum possible variety and heterogeneity of actors (in terms of position, level and type of expertise and culture) and practices involved in governing the nexus across scales and sectors.
Linked Sessions Governance innovations for the urban nexus (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Nexus governance and pathways to transformation: Finding geography's place
Håvard Haarstad (University of Bergen, Norway)
Tarje Wanvik (University of Bergen, Norway)
Stina Oseland (University of Bergen, Norway)
It is widely agreed that climate and energy transformation presents us with 'wicked problems' (Rittel and Webber, 1973), which problematizes established foundations for both governance and research. It challenges traditional organisational boundaries, often neatly arranged along sectorial lines, and poses new questions for knowledge generation and politics. Hence there is a now a growing interest in new ways of organising, mobilizing and connecting various forms of research, education and practice, as witnessed by the variety and popularity of concepts describing manifestations of this phenomenon – such as post-normal science (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1993), co-production of knowledge (Jasanoff 2004), living labs (Evans and Karvonen 2014), climate change experiments (Bulkeley and Castán Broto 2013), nexus governance (Hiteva, 2016), etc. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the potentialities and pitfalls for geographers in navigating this terrain, and to discuss how geographers' research-based activities in this terrain can help chart new pathways to climate and energy transformation. First, the paper traces parts of the conceptual lineages around post-normal science and nexus governance, focusing on the role of geography. Second, it outlines potential challenges involved in working within this conceptual space as identified by the literature, including being drawn into 'top-down' or technocratic projects, or losing positions from which to critique. Third, it discusses our own experiences from research and education practices in geography that explores knowledge generation across sectors and disciplinary boundaries. Here we draw on a number of different exercises; including fieldwork and students field courses in cross-disciplinary academic settings, experiences with advisory work for policy-makers and planners, and cross-disciplinary research seminars. We conclude the paper by drawing up a set of tentative lessons for how these experiences can be used to stimulate new pathways for climate and energy transformations.
Bottom-up transformations of water and energy governance in post-socialist Asia and Europe
Saska Petrova (The University of Manchester, UK)
Alison Browne (The University of Manchester, UK)
The governance of production, distribution and use of energy and water are inextricably linked, but still they are addressed in isolation, within sectorial boundaries (UN, 2014). The paper scrutinises how to approach, investigate, theorise and steer the complex co-experiences and co-consumption of the nexus of energy and water in the home. It situates their interconnectivities into broader social, economic, political, and infrastructural factors in post-socialist, fast growing economies in Europe and Asia. The paper outlines and compares the key co-benefits and trade-offs of the everyday meso (community)- and micro (household)- circulations and consumptions of energy and water. Doing so in post-socialist contexts addresses a range of calls within critical geographies to move beyond social theory dominated by the Global North; enabling a different set of considerations as to the complex governance conditions through which various scales of technologies, infrastructures, sectors and actors interact to perform various (un)sustainabilities of the water-energy nexus. Thus, this paper addresses a research gap surrounding the dynamics and performativity of bottom-up mechanisms that can lead to societal and environmental transformation.
What do cities connect? 'Stepping back' to map nexus governance regimes in cites
Michelle Acuto (University College London, UK)
Francesca Artioli (University College London, UK)
Cities are hubs of water, energy and food distribution and consumption (rather that production). As such, they seem a natural context for 'nexus' research and policymaking. Yet, most policy reports about the nexus rely on the assumptions that further integration of water, energy and food systems is a policy objective per se for urban governance, and that this is to be achieved through reforming both technologies and existing governance arrangements. This is frequently mirrored in both social and natural scientific research. Our paper takes a step back from these two assumptions seeking to spell out a more theoretically and empirically informed understanding of the nexus as current and incumbent water, energy and food regimes in UK cities. First, it seeks to understand the socio-technical construction of these three distinctive sectors (actors, formal institutions, shared understanding and informal norms, resources, technical solution…) and of those policies that increase cross-sectorial integration. Second, in an urban context which is characterized by, on the one hand, national regulations and incumbent market providers and, on the other hand, decentralised and infra-urban initiatives, it seeks to understand if and how cities (as both political actors and institutional configurations) produce or reconfigure the interactions between the water, energy and food sectors. Overall, drawing on research on UK cities and international comparators, the essay argues for a methodological 'step back' that appreciates the in-built assumptions, and users, of the theory and of the infrastructure sustaining the nexus in cities.
Scale specific framings of the water-energy-food-landuse nexus in the governance of Danish cities: the fading representation of ecological priorities
Chiara Farné Fratini (Aalborg University, Denmark)
Jens Stissing Jensen (Aalborg University, Denmark)
Birgitte Hoffmann (Aalborg University, Denmark)
This paper discusses the relevance of scale sensitivity in relation to the newly emerging concept of nexus governance, which highlights the need for cross-sectorial integration among large scale technological systems e.g. water, energy, food etc. On the base of the nexus governance concept we reviewed a number of Danish efforts to achieve cross-sectorial integration of water in urban contexts. Our study suggests that scale specific perspectives are offering different opportunities for integration in municipal planning. In particular, two perspectives are being prioritized in Danish nexus governance efforts: 1) a national perspective, which support integration between the water infrastructure and the energy system for efficiency purposes; 2) a local/urban perspective which instead pursue integration of water management in urban planning activities with the purpose of developing climate resilient and liveable urban spaces. Nevertheless, both perspectives miss sensitivity for ecological priorities e.g. biodiversity and nature protection. The dismantlement of a regional planning perspective from 2007 resulted in the gradual fading of ecological priorities in water governance practices. Municipalities lack the necessary capacity and overview and national authorities the appropriate proximity to territorial specificities. Our study shows that a stronger regional perspective would better promote nexus governance efforts among different landuse activities and large scale infrastructures because it combines the necessary overview with the necessary context sensitivity for supporting ecological priorities. Secondly, it shows that the lack of a regional integration perspective may be costly by not exploiting the potentials for sustainable transitions. We conclude that very different opportunities for cross-sectorial integration become visible from different scalar perspectives. This suggests that nexus-governance approaches need to be built on the base of scale-sensitivity.
Harriet Bulkeley (Durham University, UK)