How do cities work with transformative change? Malmö’s and Copenhagen’s approach to energy efficiency in buildings

University essay from Lunds universitet/Internationella miljöinstitutet

Abstract: Global inefficient energy use poses a significant risk to climate change and air quality worldwide; therefore, there is an urgent need to transform today's energy system into one that is rooted in efficiency. The building sector represents an opportunity to reduce energy use and has the potential to unlock additional co-benefits. Today, many of the technologies and design solutions have been proven effective in both reducing energy use in buildings and cost; however, the efficiency gap is still prevalent and prevents the potential in energy efficiency from being realized. This thesis explores how cities work with transformative change to achieve energy efficiency in buildings. Specifically, the paper will discuss how concepts of visions, experiments, learning, and collaborations, which are central in transition management literature, are applied in the city context and guide transformative work. Research relies on case studies analysis of Malmö and Copenhagen, with focus on interviews with municipal representatives, and analysis of vital, relevant documents. Due to ambitious targets and experimental approaches, both cities have gained national attraction and recognition as the leading examples of sustainable urban development. The research confirms that indeed, cities do work with concepts of visions, experimentation, learning, and collaborations, and recognize these elements as viable and essential pathways for exploring future sustainable solutions. Nevertheless, the result highlights that although cities recognize the value of visions, experiments, learning, and collaborations, they often see them as separate 'projects' rather than integrated elements of one governance cycle. As a result of this study, it is better understood that different levels of transformative processes in cities can be influenced by formal processes and the extent to which they influence the structure, culture, and practices within cities. Results of this study show that differences in internal processes and organizational structures can influence levels of visions, experiments, learning, and collaborations in cities. However, operationalized learning stands out as the connective tissue that has a unique potential to elevate the impact of all four transition elements and improve energy efficiency in buildings. With much attention in literature given to the need for a transformative change in society, this study reveals the need for more research and understanding of broader societal learning necessary to accelerate the transformation towards more energy-efficient buildings. Additionally, there is a need to develop more applied materials and tools that help practitioners understand the nature of transformative change and apply its principles in local governance structures.

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