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Identifying social determinants of urban low carbon transitions: the case of energy transition in Bilbao, Basque Country

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  • Marta Olazabal
  • Unai Pascual

Abstract

Cities are widely defined as complex systems formed by coupled social, ecological and economical systems. The complexity of urban dynamics goes far beyond its boundaries due to the strong influence of larger scales and the deep dependence of cities on outside resources. Such crucial cross-scale effects can fuel maladaptive behaviour, conducting cities to rigid and unsustainable traps. Urban energy systems have all the ingredients of complexity, dependence and vulnerability to global environmental change. Presumably, transformability, like adaptability, depends on perceptions, values and culture of each society. Here it is hypothesized that often social behaviours related to the scepticism, close-minded attitudes, traditional economic models, lack of trust in institutions and in self-capacities are those which limit the potential of transformation in cities (favouring lock-in status). The type of energy and the way it is supplied depends largely on utilities, urban planning and design, economic incentives, regulations, investment opportunities etc. These determinants, together with household factors depending on lifestyle, rent, etc. affect the level of consumption and choices. Altogether, these determinants play a decisive role in decision making processes at individual and institutional level and therefore can limit the transformation potential. We use a case study in Bilbao (Basque Country) to illustrate barriers and hidden opportunities of a local energy transition through an analysis of its cognitive dimension. This is done by applying a semi-quantitative methodology (Q method) which aids to investigate the stakeholders’ perceived capacity of change. This results in four distinct discourses with direct implications in the potential of transformation of the city of Bilbao.

Suggested Citation

  • Marta Olazabal & Unai Pascual, 2013. "Identifying social determinants of urban low carbon transitions: the case of energy transition in Bilbao, Basque Country," Working Papers 2013-11, BC3.
  • Handle: RePEc:bcc:wpaper:2013-11
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. La Gennusa, Maria & Lascari, Giovanni & Rizzo, Gianfranco & Scaccianoce, Gianluca & Sorrentino, Giancarlo, 2011. "A model for predicting the potential diffusion of solar energy systems in complex urban environments," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(9), pages 5335-5343, September.
    2. Davies, B.B. & Hodge, I.D., 2007. "Exploring environmental perspectives in lowland agriculture: A Q methodology study in East Anglia, UK," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2-3), pages 323-333, March.
    3. Hodson, Mike & Marvin, Simon, 2010. "Can cities shape socio-technical transitions and how would we know if they were?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 477-485, May.
    4. Bernhard Truffer & Lars Coenen, 2012. "Environmental Innovation and Sustainability Transitions in Regional Studies," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 46(1), pages 1-21, November.
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    Keywords

    urban sustainability; transitions; low carbon; Q method; Bilbao;

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