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From leaders to majority: a frontrunner paradox in built-environment climate governance experimentation

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This paper seeks to better understand the possible paradox of frontrunners in experimental climate governance. This paradox refers to the situation where frontrunners are required to push boundaries in terms of developing governance innovations and to experiment with these, but where, at the same time, a too strong focus on frontrunners may result in a situation where lessons from these experiments and the innovations developed do not resonate with the majority. In such a situation, an innovation may not be capable of being scaled up or of being transferred to another context. This paper draws lessons from a series of nine experimental and innovative governance instruments for low-carbon building development and transformation in Australia. It points out that for these instruments the frontrunners paradox provides a partial explanation as to why they have not yet been able to scale up from a small group of industry leaders to the large majority.
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From leaders to major
ity: A frontrunner paradox in built
-
environment climate governance experimentation?
Journal:
Journal of Environmental Planning and Management
Manuscript ID
CJEP-2017-0041.R2
Manuscript Type:
Research Article
Keywords:
governance innovations, urban governance, low-carbon transitions,
Australia
Abstract:
This article seeks to better understand the paradox of frontrunners in
experimental climate governance. This paradox refers to the situation
where frontrunners are required to push boundaries in terms of developing
governance innovations and to experiment with these, but where, at the
same time, a too strong focus on frontrunners may result in a situation
where lessons from these experiments and the innovations developed do
not resonate with the majority. In such a situation an innovation may not
be capable of being scaled up or of being transferred to another context.
This article draws lessons from a series of nine experimental and
innovative governance instruments for low-carbon building development
and transformation in Australia. It points out that for these instruments the
frontrunners paradox provides a partial explanation as to why they have
not yet been able to scale up from a small group of industry leaders to the
large majority.
URL: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/cjep Email: Sarah.Cherrill2@newcastle.ac.uk
Journal of Environmental Planning and Management
For Peer Review Only
1
From leaders to majority: A frontrunner paradox in built-environment climate
governance experimentation?
Introduction
Over recent years, scholars have pointed to an emerging trend of experimentalist climate
governance around the globe (Ansell and Bartenberger 2016; Laakso, Berg, and Annala
2017; McFadgen and Huitema 2017). They are specifically concerned with the development
of innovative climate governance instruments through iterative processes of implementation,
learning, and adaptation—sometimes framed as “governance by experiment” (Bulkeley and
Castan Broto 2013; Caprotti and Cowley 2016; Hoffmann 2011). This experimental climate
governance appears to be particularly popular for low-carbon built-environment development
and use (Bulkeley, Castan Broto, and Edwards 2015; Evans, Karvonen, and Raven 2016;
Johnson, Toly, and Schroeder 2015; Smedby 2016).
The literature is not univocally positive about the capacity of these experiments to
effectively address climate change challenges in general and to accelerate the transition to
low-carbon built environments in particular (Harman, Taylor, and Lane 2015; Scott 2015;
Van der Heijden 2017). Indeed, the literature is becoming increasingly critical of the
transferability of innovative governance instruments from one context to another as well as
the scalability of lessons learnt from experimental to formal settings (Evans and Karvonen
2014; Kivimaa, Hildén, Huitema, Jordan, and Newig 2015; Vreugdenhil, Taljaard, and
Slinger 2012).
Seeking to better understand what may hamper transferability and scalability, this
article explores an intuitive paradox in experimental and innovative climate governance—the
necessity and constraints of involving frontrunners in such experiments. On the one hand,
frontrunners are required to push the boundaries in terms of innovation and to have actors
willing to accept the risks of experimentation (Andresen and Agrawala 2002; Gunningham
and Sinclair 2002). On the other hand, a too strong focus on frontrunners may result in a
situation where the lessons drawn from experiments and the innovative instruments
developed do not resonate with the majority in an industry or sector (Moore 2002; E. M.
Rogers, Medina, Rivera, and Wiley 2005).
In what follows, the discussion first briefly reviews the literature on climate
governance experimentation, with a focus on the built environment, seeking to understand
what may be expected of such experimentation. This review also further explores the
possibility of a frontrunner paradox in climate governance experimentation and innovation
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and its possible consequences. From here on, the article studies a series of nine instruments
for low-carbon built environments in Australia that are characterised by experimentation and
innovation (the research design is explained in what follows) and assesses their performance.
From this research, it becomes clear that industry frontrunners are indeed a key characteristic
of governance experiments and that the strong focus on involving them in experiments comes
with constraints on how the innovative instruments perform and how they can be transferred
and scaled. In other words, the frontrunner paradox is a considerable challenge for those
involved in governance experimentation and innovation. The article concludes by identifying
the main lessons learnt and discusses their relevance to experimental and innovative climate
governance.
Experimentation and innovation: The balancing act of virtue and mechanism
The field of “governance by experiment” is rapidly gaining traction. In what follows, a brief
review of the literature is provided to introduce core aspects of experimental governance
relevant for understanding the empirical study that follows; readers interested in the origins,
conceptual underpinnings, and breadth of experimental governance are referred to the
excellent meta-reviews available elsewhere (Ansell and Bartenberger 2016; Bai, Roberts, and
Chen 2010; Bulkeley and Castan Broto 2013; Laakso et al. 2017).
There is no single definition of what climate governance experimentation with
innovative instruments entails, but some “ideal type” characteristics recur in the literature. Of
these, the first and foremost is a shift away from technocratic processes of instrument
development towards iterative ones, involving the trialling of governance instruments within
a bounded jurisdiction or population and with the ambition of scaling up these instruments
once lessons have been drawn (Bulkeley and Castan Broto 2013; Kivimaa et al. 2015). The
second is a shift away from government as the sole authority to govern climate problems and
a move towards the involvement of public and private sector stakeholders or even the
development of climate governance instruments without any government involvement at all.
Through collaborative and consensus-oriented approaches (i.e., experimenting), the tacit
knowledge of those governed can be included in the development and implementation of
governance instruments, which may further their (local) effectiveness (Ansell and
Bartenberger 2016; Hoffmann 2011). The third is a shift towards governance instruments that
encourage self-organisation, market solutions, or both as substitutes for or complements to
mandatory command-and-control style instruments, often combined with a shift towards
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instruments that reward voluntary compliance as opposed to enforcing mandated behaviour
(Bos and Brown 2012; Evans et al. 2016).
At building and city level, governance experimentation is considered particularly
promising because of scaling possibilities: if an experimental governance instrument works in
a specific (part of a) city, then it, or the lessons learnt from it, might easily be scaled up to
other parts of the city or even to other cities (Sassen 2015). Yet, moving from experimental
governance as a virtue to experimental governance as a mechanism appears to come with
constraints, and concerns have been expressed. Some scholars argue that whilst experiments
may achieve promising results in one context it will be difficult to replicate these in other
contexts. Small differences between contexts in, for example, legal requirements, may have
considerable impact on an experiment’s performance (McFadgen and Huitema 2017; Rocle
and Salles 2017). Others warn that the original participants in an experiment have specific
incentives to ensure its success. Such motivations may, however, not be shared by the
broader population, implying that once an initiative is formalised in public policy it will not
yield the same results as during its experimental phase (Laakso et al. 2017; Sidiki, Carboni,
Koski, and Sadiq 2015). Then, whilst experimental governance is not limited to a specific
size, studies find that the scale of experiments is often too small to have a meaningful impact
(Bai et al. 2010; Van der Heijden 2017).
But what can be considered a successful experiment? This is a question that haunts,
particularly, the evaluative literature (Ansell and Bartenberger 2016; Laakso et al. 2017). If
drawing lessons is considered a main goal, then an experiment with a climate governance
instrument that fails to achieve carbon emissions can, paradoxically, be considered a great
success—at least now we know not to use that instrument (Van der Heijden 2017). Yet, if
being able to scale up and scale out is the main goal of an experiment, then this hypothetical
example would be considered a major failure (Sassen 2015). It is particularly between the
evaluative categories of “drawing lessons” from a governance experiment and “capacity for
scaling up” that governance experiment that a specific potential paradox sits, which could
explain why an experiment can be considered at the same time a success and a failure.
The possibility of a frontrunner paradox
At first glance, experimentation, innovation, and frontrunners are logical allies (Bos and
Brown 2012; Hoffmann 2011; Termeer and Nooteboom 2014). Experiments look for actors
who want to be actively involved in solving a problem, who do not mind deviating from
routines, and who are willing to take risks. Innovations look for actors who think outside of
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the box, who do not take routines for granted, and who see opportunities where others do not.
We naturally assign such traits to frontrunners (Teisman, van Buuren, and Gerrits 2009). It is
from these actors and their involvement in experiments with innovative governance
instruments that we may draw valuable lessons about those instruments.
Indeed, the empirical literature on climate governance experimentation often points to
the role played by frontrunners in government, civil society, and particularly in industry as
being crucial for getting experiments off the ground, for developing innovative instruments,
and for trialling them (Andresen and Agrawala 2002; Borck, Coglianese, and Nash 2008;
Gunningham and Sinclair 2002). This relates directly to the diffusion of innovations literature
that argues that any innovation needs to be committed to and taken up by a group of leaders
before it can scale up to the majority (Rogers 1995; Rogers et al. 2005). In short, these
frontrunners trial the experiment and demonstrate its advantages to the majority, who will
then, so goes the argument, be convinced and will also commit to the innovation and
mainstream it (Moore 2002; E. M. Rogers 1995).
The literature on the diffusion of innovations does, however, point to a critical
moment in this scaling process. If the majority are not convinced by the insights and
experiences shared by the frontrunners, they may reject an innovation (Moore 2002). In non-
homogenous areas—those characterised by a wide variety of actors, products, and services—
this risk is substantial because the majority may not consider frontrunners as their peers or
equals (Clarysse, Wright, Bruneel, and Mahajan 2014; Jahanmir and Lages 2016). In other
words, the lessons drawn by the frontrunners may not resonate with the majority market to
which the experiment aims to scale. Since many climate governance experiments and
innovative climate governance instruments seek to address complex problems in non-
homogenous areas, this “frontrunner paradox” may be particularly challenging. This holds
particularly for the built-environment with its large numbers of building types and contexts,
professions, forms of ownership, and so on. The paradox has, however, received limited
attention in the empirical literature on climate governance experimentation. In what follows,
this frontrunner paradox is explored by studying a series of experimental and innovative
urban climate governance instruments for reducing carbon emissions from the built
environment in Australia.
Towards urban climate governance experimentation and innovation in Australia
As in many other countries, the Australian building stock is a key source of the nation’s
carbon emissions (Rauland and Newman 2015). The construction, maintenance, and use of
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buildings account for approximately 25 per cent of Australia’s annual carbon emissions—
approximately four metric tonnes per capita annually.
1
The dominant governance instruments
in place to address building-related carbon emissions in Australia reflect those in force in
other countries (IEA 2013; Van der Heijden 2014). The Building Code of Australia is key. It
pursues improved sustainability in buildings primarily through building energy efficiency
codes. These were introduced in 1997 and their stringency has since been increased. Over the
years, considerable critique has been expressed towards them. The Building Code of
Australia applies only to the development of new buildings and major retrofits of existing
ones. New and amended regulatory requirements normally exempt the existing stock from
compliance. Because most of the existing Australian stock predates the 1980s, well before
any energy efficiency requirements were in force, its energy efficiency is poor and its related
carbon emissions high (Bond 2011). Yet, even the younger stock shows poor performance
(Maller and Horne 2011). Building energy efficiency codes were introduced relatively late in
Australia and are lenient when compared to the United States and Europe (IEA 2013). This
problem is amplified by the fact that mandatory requirements for low-carbon building
development (such as energy efficiency requirements) are found to face poor regulatory
enforcement, increasing the likelihood of non-compliance (Healthy Environs 2015).
These critiques relate to broader critiques of mandatory, top-down, government-led
instruments for low-carbon buildings. Although, in theory, these instruments hold great
potential to accelerate the transition to low-carbon buildings (IEA 2013; UNEP 2009), they
face a political and instrumental reality that is not in their favour (Van der Heijden 2014).
Acknowledging these complications, government, industry, and civil society have begun to
experiment with innovative governance instruments of the kind discussed before, seeking to
reduce the carbon emissions of the Australian building stock beyond what is required by
mandatory instruments (McGuirk, Bulkeley, and Dowling 2014; McGuirk, Dowling,
Brennan, and Bulkeley 2015).
Research design
Between 2010 and 2015, nine innovative governance instruments for low-carbon building
development and transformation were studied in Australia to gain a better understanding of
how they perform and how their performance can be explained. In addition, a series of 26
1
Data from: www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/greenhouse-gas-measurement/tracking-emissions (20
July 2016).
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related instruments from other countries were also studied, including the United States and
the Netherlands (van der Heijden, 2017). However, due to space limitations, these related
instruments are not discussed in this article.
The nine instruments that form the basis of this article were chosen from the larger
pool to represent the variety of designs and contexts but without resulting in too much
repetition of instruments in the pool of Australian cases. They fit three broad types of
innovative urban climate governance instruments: certification instruments that make visible
the resource performance of a building via a label, action networks that bring together actors
to explore how to achieve the transition to low-carbon buildings, and novel forms of
financing that seek to financially support property owners and developers (these broad types
relate to those identified in the literature on experimental and innovative climate governance;
cf., Evans et al. 2016; Van der Heijden 2016; Wurzel, Zito, and Jordan 2013). Although the
nine instruments are indicative of the full pool of cases studied in the larger research project
(in terms of design and performance),
2
by no means does this article claim that they are
representative of all possible designs and contexts of innovative governance instruments for
low-carbon building development and transformation around the globe. Table 1 provides a
brief overview of the instruments studied for this article and online Appendix A gives a more
extensive description of each instrument.
TABLE 1 ABOUT HERE
As the research project sought to gain an in-depth understanding of the performance
of these instruments, a qualitative comparative research design was chosen (Newell, Pattberg,
and Schroeder 2012). Cases (experimental and innovative governance instruments) were
identified through internet searches and desk research. Whilst all cases discussed in this
article are illustrative of a trend of innovative climate governance instruments, not all cases
studied were in a similar stage of experimentation. Some were terminated during the research
project (including the Sustainable Development Grant and the Building Innovation Fund),
others were started just at the same time this project began and experimented with during the
whole period of research (including the Better Buildings Partnership and CitySwitch Green
Office), and yet others had moved beyond their initial experimental stages and were only
2
The larger pool includes 16 certification instruments, eight action networks, and 11 innovative forms of
financing (van der Heijden, 2017). The set studied here includes three, two, and four respectively.
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modified incrementally following conventional policy change processes during the research
project (including NABERS and Green Star).
The NABERS building certification instrument provides a good illustration here. It
was implemented by the state of New South Wales as a voluntary programme in 1998 to gain
insight into the resource consumption of the existing building stock and to influence the
office market. It was expected that insight into building energy and water performance would
drive demand for energy- and water-efficient office space, resulting in an upgrading of
offices. Between 1999 and 2004, other state governments in Australia adopted it, and in 2005
the Australian Commonwealth Government adopted NABERS as a nationwide voluntary
instrument. In 2010, the Commonwealth Government went further by introducing the
Building Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act of 2010. The Act applies to office buildings with
a net lettable area greater than 2,000 square metres and requires the owner or tenant to
disclose the energy efficiency rating when such a building comes onto the market for sale or
lease or when an existing lease is renewed. The Act requires that a NABERS energy
certificate be made available but does not stipulate that a specific level of certification for a
building has to be met. Finally, in 2015, NABERS was exported to New Zealand, where it is
implemented as a voluntary instrument.
3
A comparison of older versions of NABERS with newer ones indicates that over the
years the rules underlying the instrument have been increased in stringency, the scope of the
instrument has been increased to include more types of buildings, the star rating on which it
builds has been expanded to make visible exceptional performance, and so on. This was all
done based on lessons learnt during its implementation. The instrument was developed in
close collaboration with industry stakeholders, builds on market solutions, and rewards
voluntary beyond-compliance performance.
Data collection and analysis
The relevant data for analysing the instruments were obtained from websites, reports, and
other sources. New data were obtained through a series of interviews. Interviews sought to
fill gaps in the data from other sources, to resolve conflicts in data from other sources, and to
gain additional insight into the instruments under scrutiny. Interviewees were recruited
through Internet searches and social-network websites, particularly LinkedIn. A total of 55
interviewees from various backgrounds, including policymakers, bureaucrats, property
3
www.nabersnz.govt.nz (18 August 2016).
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developers, architects, engineers, and property owners, were interviewed for insights into the
nine instruments studied here. The interviewees were often aware of and involved in more
than one instrument. It is expected that this (partially) helped to overcome the sampling bias
of administrators (and participants) who were overly enthusiastic about their “own”
instruments. Table 2 provides a brief overview of the interviewees.
TABLE 2 ABOUT HERE
Data were processed following conventional practice for this type of research (Brady
and Collier 2004; Goertz and Mahony 2012; Silverman 2001). That is, the interviews were
recorded and, based on the recording and notes taken during the interviews, a summary report
was drafted that was returned to the interviewees for validation. Interviews lasted for
approximately one hour and were generally conducted at the interviewees’ work locations.
The interview data and additional data were coded using a systematic coding scheme (online
Appendix B provides an overview of codes used) and then processed using data analysis
software (Atlas.ti). Using this approach, the data were systematically explored and insight
was gained into the “repetitiveness” and “rarity” of the experiences shared by the
interviewees and the insights provided by additional sources.
Findings
To better understand whether there is indeed such as thing as the frontrunner paradox and, if
so, what its implications are, this empirical section is structured into four topics that follow
from the literature discussed to further tease out the tension between drawing lessons and
scaling up in urban climate governance experiments: (1) the role of industry frontrunners in
the innovative governance instruments studied, (2) the lessons learnt from experimenting
with the instruments, (3) the performance achieved relative to the problem the instruments
seek to address, and (4) the potential to scale up the instruments or to replicate them in other
settings.
The role of industry frontrunners
All instruments were developed through collaborations between government and industry.
Interviewees involved in their development and implementation were particularly vocal about
the need to involve industry frontrunners in these processes—where interviewees used the
terms “leader” and “frontrunner” interchangeably. “You need leaders in the market place
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showing a better way of doing things, and you need the market place to be inspired and
driven by those leaders”, explained a representative of a sustainable construction peak body
(int. 33).
4
Interviewees argued that governments have a limited understanding of what is
possible in terms of low-carbon buildings and that by bringing in industry frontrunners in
these instruments, their knowledge can be used. “From [our] point of view,” explained a
policymaker in Sydney (int. 42), “we need their expertise and experiences to show us and
challenge us to get the best solutions.” A policymaker in Melbourne (int. 26) added, “You
can say all these things should be in regulation, but then it forces leadership into something
traditional. You won’t help businesses to build something that is leading. Something that is
on the edge.” Thus, this interviewee argued that only by involving industry frontrunners in
the development of these instruments is it possible to move beyond traditional solutions.
Not only were industry frontrunners deeply involved in the development and
implementation of the instruments, but also the instruments themselves focused strongly on
rewarding industry frontrunners. An illustrative example is Green Star, a building
certification instrument that makes visible the environmentally sustainable credentials of a
building through the use of a label. As a senior board member of the Australian Green
Building Council (int. 22)—the organisation that administers Green Star—explained, “When
developing Green Star, we faced this question: Do you aim for the top 5 per cent of the
market and neglect the other 95 per cent?” He continued, “Aiming [for] the top 25 per cent
appeared a way to address the leaders in the market, without losing engagement.” To indicate
its emphasis on rewarding only the top quartile, Green Star awards three labels, the minimum
of which is a 4 Star rating (referred to as “Best Practice”), followed by 5 Star (“Australian
Excellence”), and 6 Star (“World Leadership”).
The same senior board member concluded that “If you address the leaders, you will
push the followers” (int. 22). Interviewees repeatedly mentioned this expectation of a
spillover effect from frontrunners in the industry to the majority. As a policymaker in
Brisbane (int. 27) noted, “The developer looks down the road, sees a Green Star building and
thinks, ‘I’ve got to compete with that’. You get to a tipping point where it becomes the
norm.” According to the interviewees, another advantage of acknowledging frontrunners is
that it rewards, and therefore stimulates, innovation: “For me it really shows what the market
is capable of”, observed a policymaker in Adelaide (int. 51). “You often see ambition [in
4
Interviewees were promised anonymity in research publications. Interviewees are numbered consistently
throughout all publications resulting from the larger project.
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government] to lift the minimal standards, but then the interest groups squeal and say ‘That
cannot be done’. But with [these instruments] you see that it can be done, that it makes them
think to go further, to push the boundaries.”
The focus on industry frontrunners is dominant, even in the way the instruments are
marketed. For example, the website of the Green Building Council of Australia, the
organisation that administers Green Star, mentions the word “leadership” no less than 6,500
times on its pages.
5
Yet, the instruments are also marketed using subtler wording to attract
frontrunners in the industry. The instrument 1200 Buildings, which helps property owners
secure funds for retrofits, claims on its website that participation helps in “improving
corporate image”, helps to “lower environmental footprint”, and helps in “making the
building more attractive to investors”.
6
The Mayor of Melbourne is also vocal in the media
about the “leadership role” that participants have taken in committing to this instrument.
7
That having been said, participants were less vocal about a need to involve frontrunners in
these instruments. For them, there is no need to distinguish between the frontrunners and the
majority in these instruments. Their aim is to gain the rewards of the instrument and not, or at
least less so, to make the instrument a success, which is a key goal for instrument
administrators (cf., E. M. Rogers 1995).
Lessons learnt and knowledge created
Again, particularly instrument administrators and those involved in the process of
experimenting with it were very positive about the various lessons learnt and the knowledge
created from the experiments. When discussing the value of experiments with innovative
climate governance instruments in Sydney, a city policymaker argued (int. 42) that “[these
experiments are] a good way of demonstrating what actually can be done. It is a good way of
showing facts about the efficiencies [that can be achieved] in energy and water
[consumption].” Likewise, the representative of a sustainable building peak body argued (int.
33) that “[these experiments] are necessary in setting the vision [of] what the right thing is.
Because if we don’t show what the right thing is, [the construction and property industries]
are doing the wrong thing.”
Indeed, all instruments studied have (or had) sections on their websites dedicated to
best practices and lessons learnt (see also online Appendix B). These range from very brief
5
www.new.gbca.org.au (18 August 2016).
6
www.melbourne.vic.gov.au/1200buildings/Pages/GoodForBusiness.aspx (10 August 2016).
7
www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/news/1894/melbournes-big-green-overhaul (18 August 2016).
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descriptions of exemplary buildings constructed or retrofitted in some instruments to
extensive case studies in others that spell out opportunities, challenges, costs, and participant
and administrator experiences. A challenge in communicating best practices and knowledge,
explained programme administrators, is moving from very project- or participant-specific
insights to knowledge that is transferable across different (types of) projects and participants.
Another challenge is data collection. Often the notion of drawing lessons from trialling or
experimenting with an instrument came only after the very first phases of developing or
implementing it. Often in the initial stages of an experiment, no formal structure of drawing
and storing lessons was in place. As an administrator of one of the instruments studied
explained after its first year of experimentation (int. 18), “[We do not] collect lessons
systematically, but still some mutual learning is achieved. We are seeing things better now.
Where are the opportunities [in building-energy reduction]? Where is most energy used?
Where can we make savings? But systematic collection of data will be the next step.”
While participants were also positive about the ability to draw lessons from these
experiments, there was little mention of using the best practices and case studies developed
and provided by instrument administrators. Reflecting on Green Star, a manager of one of
Australia’s largest development firms stated (int. 45), “It is like when Green Star started.
Back then a four-star Green Star building was very [exceptional]. Now a four-star Green Star
building is just the minimum [in Australia’s major central business districts].” To this he
added, “It has taken some time to build up the knowledge on the returns that are generated
through certain solutions, how much energy can be saved, and so on. But the engineers now
are very knowledgeable about this and very experienced with it.” This latter part reflects well
how other participants discussed the knowledge generated through the innovative climate
governance instruments too: they often discussed how they themselves or how their advisors
or suppliers had come to understand the instrument. Yet, they did not touch on the value of
the best practices available on the various instrument websites.
In sum, as with the focus on involving leaders in these experiments, there appears a
difference between how instrument developers and administrators view the value of best
practices and knowledge generated and how participants view it. Again, the knowledge and
best practices serve different interests. For participants, it is relevant to know how exactly an
instrument will serve them, which requires very detailed knowledge that can, likely, only be
generated by using the instrument. For administrators, such knowledge is also relevant, but
too detailed, too case-specific information will likely not appeal to a broad community of
potential participants. That is, knowledge and best practices provided on instrument websites
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also serve a signalling function to attract participants. This in itself may result in situations
where being able to present an attractive “best practice” overrides the ambition to present
meaningful knowledge. CitySwitch Green Office provides an example here. “[The] key of the
[instrument] is learning,” a local administrator explained, “and we can best be understood as
a facilitator in this learning process through the meetings and lectures we organise” (int. 35).
Yet, a national administrator stated that not all data underlying the lessons learnt and the best
practices presented on the CitySwitch website are sound because the quality of insights
provided by participants. “This distorts the data we have. Based on the current data only very
flawed predictions of [best practices] can be made”, she observed (int. 41). The reported
lessons learnt and best practices presented are likely to constitute theoretical best-case
scenarios, with real performance being substantially lower than recorded numbers.
Performance: participants attracted and reductions achieved
An accepted approach in climate governance studies was followed to assess the performance
of the instruments (Borck and Coglianese 2009; de Vries, Nentjes, and Odam 2012). First, the
number of participants an instrument has attracted was considered as a percentage of the full
pool of prospective participants to which it reaches out. This was done to gain an insight into
the uptake of the instrument. Second, average reductions in energy or carbon emissions
achieved per participant were contrasted with reductions that are claimed to be achievable in
Australia at net cost-benefit by using available and well-trialled technology and insights on
low-impact behavioural change—in other words, 50 per cent reductions by 2030 (ASBEC
2016; Beyond Zero Emissions 2013; Greensense 2013). Third, the overall reductions claimed
by instrument administrators in 2015 were contrasted with the total energy consumption or
carbon emissions of the specific area addressed by the instrument in the year of its
implementation to gain an insight into the relative performance of the instruments.
8
Table 1 shows that, with the exception of the Better Buildings Partnership and
NABERS, none of the programmes studied have attracted a large percentage of the full pool
of the targeted participants.
9
Most programmes have achieved an uptake of 1 to 6 per cent—
well below the 15 to 25 per cent that is conventionally considered to be required to make a
8
These second and third approaches to evaluation may be critiqued because factors other than participating in
the instrument may also have caused reductions and because the data used, which were provided by instrument
administrators, may present an overly positive narrative (Borck & Coglianese, 2009). For this article, this is not
a major concern because it points to a pattern of generally poor performance of the instruments—even whilst the
data underlying that pattern may have been too positive in the first place.
9
Performance data is reported to great extend elsewhere (van der Heijden, 2017).
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transition from frontrunners to majority (E. Rogers and Weber 2010; E. M. Rogers 1995).
Green Star performs better, but the 18 per cent market uptake only reflects its penetration in
the office market in Australia. The programme is marginally applied in the other areas it
seeks to serve, such as retail, residential, and educational buildings. In addition, the
instrument saw a rapid increase in the number of participants in its first years, but its growth
has since levelled out (GBCA 2015). The contrastingly high participation of NABERS office
energy labelling, 77 per cent, is explained by the mandatory requirements set by the Building
Energy Efficiency Disclosure Act of 2010 (see above). That being said, the voluntary
NABERS office water labelling is applied in 46 per cent of the office market in Australia.
Finally, the participation of all originally targeted participants under the Better Buildings
Partnership can be explained by the simple fact that they constituted only 14 major property
owners.
Table 1 also shows that, with the exception of the Better Buildings Partnership, none
of the instruments are on track to achieve an average per participant reduction of 50 per cent
of energy consumption or carbon emissions by 2030 compared with the year the instrument
was launched. More worrying, again with the exceptions of the Better Buildings Partnership
and NABERS, all instruments have thus far had, at best, marginal impacts (here considered
as less than 5 per cent) on reducing the overall energy consumption or carbon emissions in
the specific areas they target. Before looking at the outlier, the Better Buildings Partnership,
this poor performance is further unpacked.
What explains the poor uptake of the instruments by prospective participants? Part of
the answer to that question appears to be the dominant focus on rewarding frontrunners and
industry leadership. For example, when closely scrutinising the participant base of
CitySwitch, an instrument that supports office tenants in reducing their resource
consumption, it was learned that it attracts participants that already show building energy
consumption below average market levels when they commit to the instrument (CitySwitch
2013, 2014, 2015). In other words, this instrument attracts tenants who are already leading
and not the majority of average and/or poor performers. The rewards that come with the
instrument may explain this. A yearly award ceremony is held to highlight the best-
performing participants and considerable media attention is given to these frontrunners.
“CitySwitch helps leaders to feel good about what it is they are doing, and we very much aim
to market [their performance] to the best of our ability,” a national CitySwitch administrator
(int. 41) explained, “but do they win business with it? Probably not.” This led interviewees
involved in CitySwitch at local level to be highly critical. “What we found is that the first
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thing people in [City X] ask is: What’s in it for me?” said a local CitySwitch administrator
(int. 50). “And [after we explain the advantages of participating] they say: I can do that
anyway. What is it that the council is going to pay for?” He was particularly concerned that
the strong focus on frontrunners makes the instrument attractive to a small segment of office
tenants only—ironically those that are already performing well.
What explains the poor average participant performance? In developing innovative
governance instruments, administrators have to make a difficult decision: introduce a highly
ambitious instrument with high participation criteria—but run the risk of a low uptake
because not many can actually comply with these criteria—or introduce a moderately
ambitious one with moderate requirements that are attractive to and achievable by a large
group of prospective participants (Potoski and Prakash 2009). When considering the
Australian instruments—and also those studied from other countries (van der Heijden,
2017)—it appears that administrators prefer the latter design over the former. For example, to
achieve the lowest level of labelling, Green Star requires participants to outperform the
energy performance requirements set by the Australian Building Code by 10 per cent (GBCA
2014). This is a fairly unambitious requirement in the light of possible reductions but is still
considered “Best Practice”. In contrast, the certification instrument EnviroDevelopment sets
more ambitious criteria and requires that buildings outperform mandatory requirements by at
least 20 per cent. However, this ambition seems to have backfired: only 6 per cent of all new
residential property built in Australia has been EnviroDevelopment certified, representing
less than 1 per cent of Australia’s housing stock.
10
Low levels of participation, moderately ambitious criteria, or both logically result in a
situation where the overall performance of these instruments is marginal. But what explains
the promising performance of the Better Building Partnership? The answer is straightforward.
The Partnership covers the relatively small area of Sydney’s central business district and only
applies to some 100 high-profile office buildings. It is an absolute elite group of property
sector leaders managing a total of AU$105 billion worth of property, which indicates that
they have the financial means to carry out retrofits. It is much easier for an instrument
administrator to reach out to such a close-knit pool of prospective participants than to any of
the pools of prospective participants in the other instruments (Olson 1965). In addition, the
reported performance should be considered in the light of the fact that some improvements
had been made (or planned) by participants well before the Partnership was implemented in
10
www.envirodevelopment.com.au, www.hia.com.au, and www.abs.com.au (6 July 2015).
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2011. The participants’ energy consumption in 2006 is used as a benchmark, which
considerably skews the reported performance.
Potential to scale or replicate
Interviewees were particularly vocal about the limitations on scaling or replicating the
instruments studied. Policymakers and administrators in cities other than Sydney, for
example, pointed to the Better Buildings Partnership as being impossible in their
jurisdictions: “We host the back offices of the big companies. It is in the interest of these big
companies to have the city in which they have their headquarters—the city from where they
want to be the springboard to the world—to have these cities hum and look fantastic”, said an
administrator from another city (int. 50). “It is not necessarily of interest to them to have their
back offices be a high-cost work environment, with [higher levels of built-environment]
sustainability, higher rental costs and all that”, he continued. The Better Building Partnership
turned out to be such a success, he further explained, because it only involves a small
jurisdiction, a relatively small number of buildings, and Australia’s most ambitious and
wealthy property owners.
Criticisms expressed about the other instruments resonate with this insight. For
example, Green Star is predominantly applied in the absolute top end of the new commercial
property market: high-end and flagship offices in the central business districts of Australia’s
major cities. It is here that Green Star has a market coverage of 18 per cent. Governmental
agencies and large corporations occupy these offices, and occupying low-carbon office space
is in line with their policies of social corporate responsibility. Green Star is, however, less
sought after by small and medium sized businesses, homeowners, and those interested in
retrofitting existing buildings. In these parts of the construction and property sectors, the
uptake of Green Star is marginal.
11
Moreover, the higher levels of labelling under
certification instruments were not considered to see much scaling: “It simply is not viable to
develop a Green Star six-star rated multi-unit residential project,” a sustainability manager at
a major property developer in Australia (int. 44) explained. He continued, “unless, of course,
you want it to be a flagship development of your portfolio and you know you’re going to
make a loss on it”.
In particular, interviewees who represented participants indicated that the frontrunner
awards that come with participating—having the opportunity to market this frontrunner
11
www.new.gbca.org.au (18 August 2016).
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position through a label, being recognised by government as an industry leader, and so on—
are of no interest to a large segment of prospective participants. “Look, we are talking about
the top end of town [that seeks Green Star certification]. Think government, blue-chip
companies, financial institutions, lawyers and accounting firms. But there is another level
where the consumer does not currently see the benefit of sustainable buildings,” explained a
senior manager at a major Australian development firm (int. 47). He continued, “and even if
they do see the benefit, they probably are not willing to pay a premium for it”. Further, a
senior consultant at one of Australia’s major environmental consultancy firms (int. 23) said,
“The [high-end] commercial market is hit. There it’s seen as creating value. But this does not
relate to the residential market. It is not proven [homeowners] want to pay for it.” The
interviewees argued that other incentives were more important to the majority of the market:
“[For them] cost reduction is one of the biggest drivers to participate. The bigger companies
[may be] very keen to market themselves as leaders in this area but the biggest driver is cost”,
concluded a senior programme officer from NABERS (int. 40).
A further complication appears to be the marketing of leadership on which many
programmes rely. 1200 Buildings provides an example. The majority of commercial property
in Melbourne’s central business district, the area targeted by 1200 Buildings, is owned
privately (small and medium-sized firms and individuals) rather than by large professional
corporations (City of Melbourne 2013). “Private owners often do not have the corporate
structures and resources to research, facilitate and track building performance”, the team
leader of 1200 Buildings explained (quoted in Aliento 2014). Private owners are often
unaware of the energy performance of the building or buildings they own and take a passive
stance toward building energy performance. More than large firms, they consider building
energy retrofits a sunk cost rather than an investment that might generate a cash flow in the
form of energy-cost savings (Perinotto 2014). Still, the instrument is marketed in terminology
that resonates more with large (and front-running) property owners than it does with smaller
ones, as discussed earlier: “improving corporate image”, “lower environmental footprint”,
and “making the building more attractive to investors”. The administrators do little to market
the instrument as an attractive opportunity for small and medium-sized firms and individual
commercial property owners.
Discussion and conclusion: Is it time to focus on what lies beyond frontrunners?
This article has studied nine governance instruments for low-carbon buildings in Australia
that share many characteristics of experimental and innovative climate governance. It was
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particularly interested in exploring the paradox of frontrunners in climate governance
experiments and innovations, that is, the conflict of having to rely on frontrunners to work
towards innovations and to be able to experiment but at the risk of relying too much on them
and thus losing touch with the majority. Without convincing the majority to commit to an
innovation it will be very hard, if not impossible, to see it scale up.
Before drawing conclusions, particularly on the frontrunner paradox, it is of relevance
to note that the chosen research approach limits the generalisability of the presented findings.
Other studies, in other countries and other areas, may find related patterns and processes but
it is unlikely that they will be exactly the same—what follows can be considered “moderatum
generalisations” (Payne and Williams 2005). Furthermore, although the poor performance of
the instruments studied can, in part, be assigned to the frontrunner paradox, other
explanations are possible, and two stand out. First, apart from the (partly) mandatory
instrument NABERS, all instruments ask for voluntary participation. The broader literature
on voluntary programmes indicates poor performance in terms of participation along the lines
observed here (Prakash and Potoski 2012). Second, except for the Better Buildings
Partnership, which is characterised by a relatively small and highly homogenous pool of
participants, all instruments seek to attract a large and relatively heterogeneous pool of
participants. The broader literature on groups and collective action indicates the complexities
of attracting participants along the lines observed here (Olson 1965). Finally, while this study
does not indicate that the frontrunner paradox plays out differently for the type of instrument
experimented with, its context, or the actors involved, future research may seek to explore
whether this holds more broadly or whether it results from the sample of nine cases studied.
That said, the bottom-line finding is that most instruments studied fall short of
attracting meaningful numbers of participants or achieving a meaningful improvement in
participants’ behaviour or both. Still, they have provided a wealth of knowledge about and
best practices in low-carbon building development, retrofitting, and use in Australia. Some
building developers, owners and users have, often supported by instrument administrators,
introduced innovative building designs and use practices that have resulted in resource
efficiencies and waste reductions that reach well beyond mandatory requirements in
Australia. It remains a question for future research, however, whether they have done so
seeking to achieve instrument rewards or whether they would have been frontrunners also
without the instruments in place. Another question for future research is how well the
knowledge created by them as well as their best practices resonate with the majority market.
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When taking a step back and looking at the instruments from some distance, a
similarity that helps to explain their poor performance comes to the fore. All instruments
adopt a fairly homogenous marketing narrative around frontrunners and the leadership
benefits that come from committing to these instruments. The markets targeted by these
instruments are, however, not homogenous and are not only made up of (prospective)
frontrunners. With the exception of the Better Buildings Partnership, all instruments seek to
attract a variety of market sectors, including professional and non-professional property
owners, large and small firms, single family dwellings and full-scale residential development
projects, international developers and local contractors, and so on. The frontrunner narrative
and the marketed leadership benefits might resonate well with specific segments of these
markets but not with all of them. In particular, for smaller firms and non-professional
property-owners, this narrative may not be sufficiently attractive or convincing. The
knowledge created by frontrunners and their best practices may also not resonate well with
other segments of the markets. In addition, and perhaps of interest to explore in future
scholarship, the data indicated a difference between how developers and administrators of
instruments view the need to involve frontrunners and the value of the knowledge created
through experiments and how participants of the instruments do.
The development and property industry lacks aspects that are essential for the
diffusion from frontrunners to majority to occur naturally (Moore 2002). First, because of the
heterogeneity of the industry, the frontrunners are not always considered to be inspirational
peers by the majority. Second, because of high fragmentation of the industry, power laws
(such as the 80/20 rule) do not hold: targeting a small number of organisations with much
influence is normally not possible in the development and property industry. The
instruments’ dominant focus on involving, stimulating, and rewarding frontrunners fails to
interpret the heterogeneity and fragmentation of the industry. Thus, the time seems ripe for
instrument administrators to move away from (solely) targeting frontrunners and marketing
the leadership benefits of these instruments and to begin to target specific market sectors with
more tailored narratives and more tailored instruments. For example, 1200 Buildings could be
split into an instrument for large property owners and one for medium and small property
owners. These groups have different needs, will probably respond to different rewards, and
will require different narratives to get them on board with an innovative governance
instrument.
In conclusion, frontrunners are important in climate governance experiments and
innovations. There is, however, a risk of a frontrunner paradox when instrument developers
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and administrators too easily assume that the majority will follow leading practice and use
knowledge created in experiments. This risk particularly boils down to the following: lessons
and best practices that result from experiments have little value when seeking to scale up the
innovative climate governance instruments experimented with when there is a mismatch
between the groups that have created these best practices and knowledge and those that are
sought for scaling up (i.e., frontrunners vs. majority). Instrument developers and
administrators need to understand the configuration of the pool of prospective participants
they target—Is it homogenous? Is it heterogeneous? Do power laws hold? Is substantial peer
pressure present? Whether the frontrunner paradox holds similarly in other complex areas of
climate governance remains to be seen. This article has, however, pointed out that there are
good reasons to assume it might.
Acknowledgements
The research reported on in this article was funded through grants from the Netherlands
Organisation for Scientific Research, grant number 451-11-015 and grant number 016-165-
322; and a grant from the Australian Research Council, grant number DE15100511. Thanks
to two anonymous reviewers and the editors of the journal for providing helpful comments to
an earlier version of the manuscript.
References
Aliento, W. (2014, 23 January 2014). Retrofits: how Melbourne can encourage private
interests to engage with public ones. Retrieved from
http://www.thefifthestate.com.au/property/commercial/retrofits-how-melbourne-can-
encourage-private-interests-to-engage-with-public-ones/58407
Andresen, S., & Agrawala, S. (2002). Leaders, pushers and laggards in the making of the
climate regime. Global Environmental Change, 12(1), 45-51.
Ansell, C., & Bartenberger, M. (2016). Varieties of Experimentalism. Ecological Economics,
130(Octobe), 64-73.
ASBEC. (2016). Low carbon, high performance. Sydney: Australian Sustainable Built
Environment Council.
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Tables
Table 1 – Summary of instruments studied
Name Brief description Participants relative
to pool of prospective
participants
Average reductions
by participants
Relative effectiveness
1200 Buildings (since
2010)
Financing instrument that bridges the City of
Melbourne government, finance providers, and
commercial property owners (participants). It aims to
retrofit 1200 buildings in the Melbourne central
business district (CBD).
4 per cent. Unknown (too few
buildings retrofitted
yet).
Minimal† when
considering
Melbourne’s 2011
commercial building
energy consumption.
Better Buildings
Partnership (since
2011)
Action network for reduced commercial property-
related carbon emissions in Sydney’s CBD. It aims for
a 70 per cent reduction of 2006 emissions by 2030.
100 per cent (all 14
initially targeted
participants).
35 per cent, and on
track to reach 70 per
cent by 2020.
Approximately 18 per
cent when considering
Sydney’s 2006
commercial building
energy consumption in
the CBD.
Building Innovation
Fund (2008–2012)
Competitive financing instrument that funded only the
most promising building retrofit proposals from a pool
of proposed retrofits of commercial buildings in the
City of Adelaide.
Less than 2 per cent
(fewer than 10 projects
were supported over
the lifetime of the
instrument).
Over 20 per cent, but
not on track to achieve
50 per cent reductions
by 2030.
Minimal when
considering Adelaide’s
2008 commercial
building energy
consumption.
CitySwitch Green
Office (since 2010)
Action network for reduced resource consumption
office users (participants). Challenges participants in
6 per cent. 13–16 per cent, but not
on track to achieve 50
Less than 1 per cent of
Australia’s 2010 office
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Australia to reduce their resource consumption and
achieve a specified classification (4 stars) under
NABERS (see below).
per cent reductions by
2030.
building energy
consumption.
EnviroDevelopment
(since 2006)
Certification instrument for resource efficient
buildings. It allows property developers and owners
(participants) to communicate the resource
consumption of their property.
6 per cent (of new
residential buildings).
Over 20 per cent, but
not on track to achieve
50 per cent reductions
by 2030.
Approximately 1 per
cent of Australia’s
2006 residential
building energy
consumption.
Environmental
Upgrade Agreements
(since 2011)
Financing instrument that bridge the City of Sydney
government, finance providers, and commercial
property owners. Comparable to 1200 Buildings
(above) but without a pre-specified emission target.
Less than 1 per cent. Unknown (too few
buildings retrofitted
yet).
Minimal when
considering Sydney’s
2011 commercial
building energy
consumption.
Green Star (since
2003)
Certification instrument for resource efficient
buildings. It allows property developers and owners
(participants) to communicate the environmental
credentials of their property.
18 per cent of new
office buildings.
Over 20 per cent (but
paper performance*)
but not on track to
achieve 50 per cent
reductions by 2030.
Approximately 4 per
cent of Australia’s
2003 office building
energy consumption
(but paper
performance*).
NABERS (nationwide
since 2010)
Certification instrument for resource efficient
buildings. It allows property developers and owners
(participants) to communicate the energy and water
consumption of their property.
77 per cent. Over 20 per cent but
not on track to achieve
50 per cent reductions
by 2030.
Approximately 15 per
cent of Australia’s
2010 office building
energy consumption.
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Sustainable
Development Grant
(2007–2011)
Competitive financing instrument that funded only the
most promising building retrofit proposals from a pool
of proposed retrofits for commercial buildings in
Brisbane.
Less than 2 per cent
(fewer than 15 projects
were supported over
the lifetime of the
instrument).
Around 20 per cent
(but paper
performance*) but not
on track to achieve 50
per cent reductions by
2030.
Minimal when
considering Brisbane’s
2007 commercial
building energy
consumption.
† The qualitative descriptor ‘minimal’ indicates a maximum of 0.5 per cent.
* The term ‘paper performance’ indicates that these are expected reductions, not observed reductions; most certificates have been issued for the
design of a building and not the performance of a building in operation.
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Table 2 – Overview of interviewees
Interviewee background Government Non-government
Policymaker 4
Administrator 22 12
Architect, engineer, advisor 7
Contractor, developer 3
Property owner 4
Other 3
Total 26 29
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Online Appendix A—An overview of cases studied
1
1200 Buildings (Melbourne, 2010)
Urban climate governance instrument developed and implemented by the Melbourne City
Council in 2010 in collaboration with one national bank, a major fund manager, and property
owners. The Melbourne City Council administers the instrument. It encourages and supports
building owners, managers and facility managers to improve building energy and water
efficiency, and to reduce landfill waste. In particular, it aims to accelerate the retrofitting of
commercial buildings in Melbourne’s central business district, and has set a target of two-
thirds of this building stock being retrofitted by 2020 (City of Melbourne, 2010; da Silva,
2011). A crucial part of the instrument is environmental upgrade financing, an approach to
supporting financially property owners who are unable to source funds for retrofits
elsewhere.
Under the instrument individual property owners commit to a minimum reduction of
energy consumption of their office buildings of 38 per cent in a letter to the Mayor of
Melbourne, outlining the retrofits they will undertake to achieve this aim. Neither the current
Building Code of Australia nor other Australian mandatory requirements set performance
requirements for existing buildings. As such it asks for considerable beyond compliance
behaviour of its participants. In return the City of Melbourne provides these property owners
with funds to retrofit their buildings, and recovers these from the property owners through a
statutory charge linked to rates collection. The City has entered into an agreement with banks
to acquire the funds it provides to the property owners. The City monitors and enforces
compliance with the instrument as part of its broader building code enforcement regime.
Through the program the City of Melbourne further seeks to provide property owners with
information on how to retrofit their buildings, particularly through a publicly accessible
website, and it also aims to create a community of rule-takers capable of benefiting from each
other’s experiences. Participants may use the promotional ‘1200 buildings’ logo to showcase
their leading practice.
Website: www.1200buildings.com.au
1
Source: REMOVED FOR REVIEW
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Better Building Partnership (Sydney, 2011)
Urban climate governance instrument launched by the by the Sydney City Council in 2011,
bringing together the Council and the City of Sydney’s 14 major property owners. It aims to
reduce the carbon emissions, waste, energy, and water consumption in buildings belonging to
these major property owners. Together, these property owners account for over fifty per cent
of all commercial property in Sydney’s central business district. The instrument requires its
participants to reduce their existing buildings’ carbon emissions in 2030 by 70 per cent as of
2006 emissions.
Participating property owners in the Partnership sign a letter to the Mayor of Sydney
pledging that they will make improvements to their buildings to achieve this goal. In return
the City of Sydney keeps these property owners involved in prospective policy deliberations
so that they can plan their property portfolios accordingly. It further seeks to reduce
regulatory barriers these property owners face in retrofitting their property, as well as
financial barriers they face in doing so. In addition, the City of Sydney promotes the ‘beyond
compliance’ performance and leadership of the participants in various media outlets,
including a website that is dedicated to the instrument. The program builds on self-reporting
of performance data by its participants, and makes these data publicly available through the
program’s website and annual reports. Compliance data are relatively easy to verify as they
predominantly relate to energy consumption information provided by utilities and energy
suppliers. More recently the program has begun to focus on barriers faced by office tenants in
improving their urban sustainability behaviour. By linking and seeking to overcome barriers
faced by office tenants and the property owners of their buildings, the program hopes to
create synergies that accelerate the improvement of urban sustainability in Sydney’s central
business district. It does so particularly by seeking synergies with CitySwitch Green Office
(see below).
Website: www.sydneybetterbuilding.com.au
Building Innovation Fund (South Australia, 2008–2012)
This competitive funding instrument was developed and implemented by the Government of
South Australia in 2008 and concluded in 2012. A fund of AU$2 million was established to
demonstrate innovative ways to reduce the carbon footprint and resource consumption of
existing commercial buildings.
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Prospective participants seeking to obtain funding would propose a solution to
improve the urban sustainability of property they owned by lodging a fully developed
construction or retrofitting plan. The proposals were then evaluated by a jury consisting of
Government of South Australia representatives, City of Adelaide representatives, academics,
and representatives of the property industry. The most promising proposals in terms of
resource consumption and waste reductions would be awarded grant funding. Grant funding
was considerable when compared to construction and retrofitting costs. A total of 11 projects
were awarded, including the installation of a living wall system, in which plant-covered wall
improved the thermal efficiency of a building, funded AU$214,000; and the installation of a
solar façade made up of translucent photo-voltaic cells, funded AU$240,000.
2
The program
rules did not specify minimum criteria for its participants to meet—note that the Australian
Building Code and other mandatory requirements for urban sustainability do not apply to
existing buildings in Australia. It was expected that the competitive aspect would incentivise
participants to propose projects with far-reaching levels of environmental sustainability.
Compliance was monitored and enforced by the state government, and partly relied on
building code enforcement of construction work by the City of Adelaide building authority.
Website: www.sa.gov.au/topics/water-energy-and-environment/climate-change/tackling-
climate-change/what-organisations-business-and-industry-can-do/building-innovation-fund
CitySwitch Green Office (2010 Sydney, 2011 national)
Urban climate governance instrument launched by the Sydney City Council in 2010 to bring
together the Council and office tenants, and made a nationwide program in 2011. It is
administered by local councils and state governments and serves as a platform for office
tenants to learn about energy efficiency, share information, network, and showcase good
practices. A yearly awards ceremony recognises leading practice in different categories.
By participating in the network, office tenants come to agreements with councils
about their future environmental performance. Commitment to the program involves
participants voluntarily undertaking a set of energy actions and providing an annual report on
their achievements. Specifically, tenants agree to meet a specific rating within NABERS (see
above). The required rating for CitySwitch participants (4 stars under NABERS)
2
Data obtained from: www.sa.gov.au/topics/water-energy-and-environment/climate-
change/tackling-climate-change/what-organisations-business-and-industry-can-do/building-
innovation-fund (25 February 2015).
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approximates a modest beyond-compliance performance with mandatory requirements for
new office development in Australia. Compliance with NABERS requirements is evaluated
by third-party assessors. However, interviews with CitySwitch administrators indicated that
not meeting the agreed NABERS rating is not penalised under the program (REMOVED
FOR REVIEW). In return for participation, councils provide tenants with support to meet
these goals. Certain Councils provide financial support to office tenants, while others
facilitate meetings and ensure an ongoing supply and distribution of information. The
national CitySwitch organisation maintains a website that provides information to
participants and non-participants alike, including case studies, best practices, and information
about other urban climate governance instruments in Australia. More recently it has begun to
focus on the interaction between tenants and landlords, and the barriers they face when
seeking improved urban sustainability of existing office buildings (for instance, through
collaboration with the Better Buildings Partnership—discussed above). CitySwitch
participants are permitted to use the promotional CitySwitch logo to promote their leading
practice.
Website: www.cityswitch.net.au
EnviroDevelopment (national, 2006)
Certification and classification instrument developed and implemented in 2006 by the Urban
Development Institute of Australia, a peak industry body with strong support from the
Queensland Government. It acknowledges sustainability credentials of buildings and city
development projects that move beyond compliance with the Building Code of Australia. The
instrument is benchmark-based, and tailored to different development types: master-planned
communities (projects larger than 1,500 dwellings), residential subdivision (projects up to
1,500 dwellings), senior or retirement living, multi-unit residential projects, industrial, retail,
education, and healthcare buildings. It can be applied to individual buildings, but in practice
it is used for large-scale development projects.
In line with other certification and classification instruments (for a review, see Van
der Heijden, 2015) it builds on a set of criteria a building or development project has to meet
in order to be certified. Among other conditions, it requires a reduction of 20 per cent of
greenhouse gas emissions and 20 per cent of water consumption compared to specifications
of the Building Code of Australia. Assessment of development projects against the
EnviroDevelopment criteria is carried out by third-party assessors. Certification is subject to
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yearly renewal. It differs from other certification and classification programs, however, in
that it does not accumulate criteria in its final level of certification, as popular labelling-based
programs do. Instead, it awards certification in different categories of performance:
ecosystems, waste, energy, materials, water, and community. Once a development project is
certified, property developers and owners can use the EnviroDevelopment logo, a series of
coloured leaves on a branch representing the categories of certification. Each leaf indicates
that the development project performs better than the benchmark set for that category, but
does not indicate how the project’s performance compares with other certified projects in that
category.
Website: www.envirodevelopment.com.au
Environmental Upgrade Agreements (Sydney, 2011)
This Government–property owner network was developed and implemented by the Sydney
City Council in 2011. The program is inspired by and resembles the earlier-discussed 1200
Buildings program in Melbourne (see above).
Website: www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/business/business-support/greening-your-
business/environmental-upgrade-finance
Green Star (national, 2003)
This is a certification and classification instrument developed and implemented in 2003 by
the Green Building Council of Australia, a non-profit organisation with close relations to the
property and construction industries. Initially it was targeted at the top 25 per cent of the
commercial property market. It acknowledges urban sustainability credentials of buildings
and city development projects that move beyond compliance with the Building Code of
Australia. It is an example of labelling-based certification, tailored to different development
types: offices, office interiors, educational buildings, industrial buildings, multi-unit
residential buildings, retail centres, healthcare buildings, public buildings, and precinct
development projects. The program is mainly applied to commercial property.
In line with other labelling-based programs, Green Star builds on a set of criteria a
building or development project has to meet in order to be certified. Its standards do not
directly relate to the Building Code of Australia, or other mandatory requirements in
Australia. The more criteria met, the higher the class of certification. Assessment of projects
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is conducted by a third-party assessor. Certification can be obtained in the categories ‘as
designed’ (when a building design meets Green Star requirements), ‘as built’ (when the
constructed building meets Green Star requirements), and ‘performance’ (when a building in
operation meets Green Star requirements). The latter category of certification is subject to
periodical renewal. Green Star awards three classes of certification: 4 Star (lowest tier), 5 Star
(mid-tier), and 6 Star (highest tier). When introduced, it was decided not to issue certificates
for relatively low ‘beyond compliance’ behaviour. Certification in the 4-Star class, however,
requires a building only to perform slightly better in terms of energy efficiency than
compliance with the Building Code of Australia. Once a project is certified under Green Star,
property developers and owners may use the Green Star logo and star classification for
promotional activities.
Website: www.gbca.org.au/green-star
NABERS (National Building Energy Rating System, Australia: regional 1998; national 2005)
NABERS is a certification and classification instrument developed and implemented in 1998
by the New South Wales Government Sustainable Energy Development Authority—a state
level agency; now the Office of Environment and Heritage—and adopted by the Australian
Commonwealth Government in 2005. It is a ratings-based instrument for existing and new
buildings, focusing on energy and water consumption. Buildings can be certified in six star
classes, including half stars, with a 6-Star NABERS classification indicating the highest level
of energy or water efficiency. It was initially developed to certify energy consumption of
office buildings only. While it has expanded its reach to include other building types, it is still
mostly applied to office buildings. It has also been included in the Australian Building
Energy Efficiency Discloser Act of 2010.
NABERS certifies the actual energy and water consumption of buildings in use. To
generate the rating, the actual performance data are adjusted for a building’s size and
occupancy, the climate conditions in which it operates, the hours of its use, the level of
services it provides, and the energy sources it uses. A building with a 2.5 to 3-Star rating
indicates average performance as compared to other buildings in its class. A building with a
4-Star rating performs at the same level as a newly developed building under the Building
Code of Australia. Assessment is undertaken by a third-party assessor and certificates are
issued by the New South Wales Government Office of Environment and Heritage. Because
no mandatory energy efficiency requirements apply to existing buildings, NABERS de facto
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certifies beyond compliance performance. Certification is subject to renewal: with office
buildings, for instance, a certificate has to be renewed when a building of 2,000 square metres
or larger comes to the market for sale or lease. Building owners and tenants may use the
NABERS logo and star classification for promotional activities. NABERS is incorporated
into a range of other Australian innovative governance programs studied, including Green
Star and CitySwitch Green Office (see above).
Website: www.nabers.gov.au
Sustainable Development Grant (Brisbane, Australia, 2007–2010)
This competitive funding instrument was developed and implemented by the Brisbane City
Council in 2007, and terminated in 2011. It aimed to improve the urban sustainability of
major office development projects. A system of criteria was introduced that assigned scored
grades defining the sustainability performance of grant applicants’ developments. The criteria
moved above and beyond those of the Building Code of Australia. If a threshold score was
reached, the applicant would receive a grant. Higher scores corresponded with greater levels
of sustainability and would attract larger financial grants. The minimum score to be achieved
corresponded with a 4-Star rating under Green Star (see above). In particular, it aimed to
reward best practice within the Brisbane office market.
Assessment of projects was carried out by the Brisbane City Council. Funds would
not be released to rule-takers before they had obtained Green Star certification of their
building project. In the first two years of the program AU$10 million grant funding was
available. Grant funding awarded related to gross floor area of a development project. As a
result of the 2011 flood damage, Brisbane City Council determined that funding for these
Grants was to be redirected towards Brisbane’s flood recovery effort.
Website: no longer accessible.
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Online Appendix B—Codes used for data analysis
The interview data were processed by means of a systematic coding scheme, and qualitative
data analysis software (Atlas.ti). The coding was carried out in three rounds, from roughly
coding parts of interviews in which, for instance, interviewees discussed the outcomes of an
instrument, to fine-grained coding within earlier-identified codes when, for instance,
interviewees discussed whether an instrument was considered effective because it had
resulted in carbon reduction. Using this approach, the data were systematically explored,
enabling insight into the ‘repetitiveness’ and ‘rarity’ of experiences shared by the
interviewees. Table D.3 provides an overview of codes used.
Table B.1 – Overview of codes for data analysis
Primary codes Secondary codes Tertiary codes
Context conditions Country Australia
India
Malaysia
Netherlands
Other country
Singapore
United States
Economic circumstances Global Financial Crisis
Existing legislation Lenient
Stringent
Societal pressure
Development motivations Affirmative Cheaper than formal regulation
Cost savings
Green consumers
Green financing
Job creation
Overcoming legal barriers
Overcoming split incentives
Showcasing good practice
Showcasing leadership
Sufficiency
Negative Hindering competitors
Industry capture
Prevent future regulation
Societal pressure
Worker pressure
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Development process
Collaboration/participation
Consensus building
Context based
Deliberation/discussion/dialogue
Devolved decision making
Heterarchy
Ongoing learning and readjustment
Mandatory vs voluntary
Mandatory is needed
Mandating voluntary
programs
Role of government
Assembling
Facilitating
Guarding
Supporting
Launching customer/consumer
Participation motivations
Affirmative
Altruism
Cost savings (general)
Energy cost savings
Financial gain (general)
Green consumers
Green financing
Regulatory relief
Showcasing good practice
Showcasing leadership
Sufficiency
Negative
Liability and legitimacy
Peer pressure
Poor past performance
Reputational harm
Societal pressure
Program design
Certification
and classification
Benchmarking
Labelling
Rating
Enforcement and monitoring
Administered monitoring
Government monitoring
Self
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monitoring
Third
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party monitoring
Existing buildings
Flexibility
Funds
Knowledge
Rules
Lenient
Stringent
Residential property
Rewards
Information
Interaction with government
Financial gain
Public recognition
Sanctioning
Financial penalty
Reputational penalty (shaming)
Warning
Target and result orientation
Transparency
Other design category
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Program outcome
Attracting rule
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takers
Changing rule
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takers’ behaviour
Effective/efficient
Best practice
Changed norm
Lessons learnt
Physical results (buildings;
energy)
Reducing CO2 emissions
Success factor
Spill-over effects
Not effective/efficient Failure factor
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... When successfully coupled with explanatory theories of behavior, analysis of governmentalities can illustrate why patterns emerge in climate change policy. Understanding how these logics provide traction for climate change policy in communities that are not immediately recognizable as global leaders is particularly critical for understanding how these efforts can be made relevant and how they will play out in the vast majority of cities in the world that are not viewed as global exemplars [10][11][12][13]. Such cities' considerations are currently under-researched, limiting understanding of how climate change policies will ultimately scale up through diffusion beyond better-known global frontrunners [10,14]. ...
... Understanding how these logics provide traction for climate change policy in communities that are not immediately recognizable as global leaders is particularly critical for understanding how these efforts can be made relevant and how they will play out in the vast majority of cities in the world that are not viewed as global exemplars [10][11][12][13]. Such cities' considerations are currently under-researched, limiting understanding of how climate change policies will ultimately scale up through diffusion beyond better-known global frontrunners [10,14]. ...
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... Building structures along with energy expended in their construction, maintenance and demolition can account for half of the overall energy consumption of society [29]. In Australia, around one-quarter of the annual carbon emissions come from the construction, maintenance, and use of buildings alone (from [30] as referenced in [28]). ...
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The use of the term ‘net zero’ has rapidly and recently become mainstream but is often not well-defined in the literature. A brief history of the term was researched, followed by a systematic literature review to consider the research question: how have the different net-zero terms been defined in the literature, and do they indicate knowledge or process gaps which identify future research opportunities? Academic research articles were searched for the term ‘net zero’ and filtered for the term ‘definition’, resulting in 65 articles. Definitions were analysed according to scale: single-building, community, urban-system, and country-wide scale. The search did not return any definitions concerning country-wide emissions (from agriculture, forestry, large-scale transportation, or industrial and mining processes), a surprising outcome given the emissions impact of these areas. The main knowledge and process gaps were found to be in four areas: governance, design, measurement and verification, and circular framework. A clear net-zero definition is required at the appropriate scale (single-building or urban-system scale), which includes explicit system boundaries and emission scopes, life-cycle energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and should incorporate a dynamic approach. The scale most likely to achieve net zero is the urban-system scale due to the potential synergies of its interacting elements and energy flows.
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Purpose Much rhetoric exists on the urgency of transitioning from current practices to a more sustainable society. However, because this imperative is guided by strong ideological overtones, weaknesses and failures in the transition effort attract inadequate scrutiny. This paper reviews Australia's progress with sustainability in an urban domain and identifies key issues hindering the sustainability transition effort. Design/methodology/approach Research on urban sustainability is ubiquitous but this weight of publications tends to emphasize technical, operational or prescriptive themes. This research uses an interpretivist philosophical lens and inductive reasoning to manually analyse pertinent literature sourced from the Scopus and Web of Science data-bases. Specifically, this study assembles outcome and evaluative assessments pertaining to Australia's urban sustainability efforts to identify both the progress achieved and residual structural impediments. Findings Emergent findings illustrate that Australia's urban sustainability goals, as expressed by the Paris Accord, have not been met. Obstruction can be attributed to over-ambitious objectives combined with weak federal leadership, under-resourced local government, over-reliance on superficial rating systems and an ineffective regulatory regime. Elite “green branding” by image conscious corporations are insufficient to offset the general disinterest of the unincentivized majority of building owners and developers. Originality/value This paper cogently summarizes Australia's urban sustainability status, along with complexity of the challenges it faces to meet targets set.
... Despite the efforts national governments are putting to address climate change, many cities are still piloting and experimenting with governance arrangements, technologies, and social processes to address the issue (Anguelovski & Carmin, 2011;Bulkeley, 2010;Gordon, 2018;Heinrichs et al., 2013). Even with the success of a few frontrunners, reaching a formula for successful climate governance is still beyond reach, especially in fast urbanising contexts (van der Heijden, 2017(van der Heijden, , 2018. ...
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... However, the demand for energy in the built environment and its associated emissions has been increasing due to changes in weather conditions, population growth, urbanisation, and an increase in worldwide levels of affluence [8]. Globally, the building sector is one of the top three energy-consuming sectors [9], responsible for about 40% of total energy consumption and 36% of total CO 2 emissions in Europe [10], and about a quarter of annual carbon emissions in Australia [11]. In order to achieve net-zero emission targets, necessary actions are required in all spatial and temporal levels in the built environment. ...
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The rapid pace of urbanization has ensured that the governance of cities is a topic that now touches more than half of the world population. This chapter puts forward three propositions that can be seen as preconditions to understand the new climate urbanism and its governance. The first proposition examines the empirical evidence of the institutionalization of climate policy within the city government itself, as well as a proliferation of governance arrangements and instruments to engage other actors. The second proposition explores to what extent these measures are implemented, manifested in changes in the urban form or social life. The third proposition explores whether climate policy has become a driving force in urban development.
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For decades now, scholars have grappled with questions about how knowledge producers can enhance the influence of their knowledge on users and improve policy making. However, little attention has been paid to how policy experiments, a flexible and ex ante method of policy appraisal, obtain influence over political decision-making. To address this gap, an exploratory framework has been developed that facilitates systematic analysis of multiple experiments, allowing hypotheses to be tested regarding how an experiment’s institutional design can influence the views of political decision-makers. Cash’s categories of effectiveness are used to describe an experiment’s conceptual influence; being how credible, salient, and legitimate decision-makers perceive an experiment to be. The hypotheses are tested using 14 experiment cases found relevant to climate adaptation in the Netherlands, with complete survey responses from over 70 respondents. The results show that although, in general, the experiments had medium to high influence on decision-makers, institutional design does have a noticeable impact. Organisers should make choices carefully when designing an experiment, particularly in order to maintain relevance during an experiment’s implementation and to build community acceptance. Suggestions for future research include a comparison of experiment effects with the effects of non-experimental forms of appraisal, such as piloting or ex ante impact assessment.
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The notion of the “urban experiment” has become increasingly prevalent and popular as a guiding concept and trope used by both scholars and policymakers, as well as by corporate actors with a stake in the future of the city. In this paper, we critically engage with this emerging focus on “urban experiments”, and with its articulation through the associated concepts of “living labs”, “future labs”, “urban labs” and the like. A critical engagement with the notion of urban experimentation is now not only useful, but a necessity: we introduce seven specific areas that need critical attention when considering urban experiments: these are focused on normativity, crisis discourses, the definition of “experimental subjects”, boundaries and boundedness, historical precedents, “dark” experiments and non-human experimental agency.
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Acknowledging the limitations of traditional, mandatory governance instruments (building codes, planning legislation) to achieve low-carbon buildings, governments, firms and other organizations have been experimenting with alternatives. This trend has become known as the ‘new governance’. This paper brings together 50 new-governance instruments to understand better this new governance for low-carbon buildings, and what may be expected from it. It finds that new-governance instruments fall short in exactly the same areas as do traditional instruments. It argues for a change in the application of new-governance instruments along three paths to improve their performance.
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This book sets out some positive directions to move forward including government policy and regulatory options, an innovative GRID (Greening, Regenerative, Improvement Districts) scheme that can assist with funding and management, and the first steps towards an innovative carbon credit scheme for the built environment. Decarbonising cities is a global agenda with huge significance for the future of urban civilisation. Global demonstrations have shown that technology and design issues are largely solved. However, the mainstreaming of low carbon urban development, particularly at the precinct scale, currently lacks sufficient: standards for measuring carbon covering operational, embodied and transport emissions; assessment and decision-making tools to assist in design options; certifying processes for carbon neutrality within the built environment; and accreditation processes for enabling carbon credits to be generated from precinct-wide urban development. Numerous barriers are currently hindering greater adoption of high performance, low carbon developments, many of which relate to implementation and governance. How to enable and manage precinct-scale renewables and other low carbon technologies within an urban setting is a particular challenge.
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Societies around the world are faced with wicked problems such as climate change. In this context, experimental governance approaches have emerged as tools with potential utility in both top-down and bottom-up governance efforts. At the same time, experimental governance has gained momentum as a desirable policy goal in its own right. As the various experimental approaches differ in their origins and serve different purposes, there is a need to organize the field. If more experimental development processes are desired, what can be expected from certain kinds of experiments? How can the field be organised in a way that benefits those designing, conducting, and evaluating experimental governance processes? In attempting to answer these questions, we carried out a meta-study of 25 articles on experimental climate governance. On the basis of the results and the previous work on experiments, we have built a ‘triangle model of experimental governance’ that proposes both vertical and horizontal dynamics within and between different functions and uses of experiments.
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Cities and urban areas are increasingly recognized as strategic arenas for climate change action. Processes of urban governance addressing climate change reconfigure the politics of climate change. Practitioners and scholars may be interested in the transformation of urban governance that follows global advances in climate change and urban policy. They may specifically be interested in how the urban governance of climate change is achieved and with what consequences for international development. This review evaluates the deep changes in urban governance that follow attempts to address climate change and how, in turn, attempts to govern climate change in urban areas reconfigure discourses informing the politics of climate change. The review shows that efforts to institutionalize climate change governance in urban areas reflect the conditions of specific contexts; that cities and sub-national entities have gained traction in international climate policy through heterogeneous forms of network governance; that governing climate change in urban areas relates to the production and deployment of new climate rationalities, or governmentalities; and that governing experiences in cities are reconfiguring discourses of climate change governance toward an increasing emphasis on experimentation as a means to deal with the open ended processes of governing urban areas.
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Across a range of disciplines and issues, experimentalism has emerged as a prominent approach for addressing environmental problems. Yet the meaning of “experiment” varies markedly across these domains. We survey the diversity of experimentation, identifying three distinct experimental logics—controlled, Darwinian, and generative. Building on Pragmatist philosophy, we argue that each of these logics has different strengths and weaknesses, but taken together they offer a valuable experimentalist approach to environmental problem-solving. However, from a transdisciplinary perspective, it is important to recognize the different values, purposes, and stances toward knowledge that they entail. Controlled experiments primarily aim to isolate causality, while Darwinian experimentation endeavors to enhance systemic innovation and generative experimentation seeks to generate new solution concepts. Appreciating these differences allows us to be more reflexive about an experimentalist agenda, illuminating the appropriate role of these logics and suggesting possibilities for fruitfully combining them. To advance this reflexive agenda, we also distinguish between epistemic and political learning and argue that experimental approaches to environmental problem-solving may benefit from being more sensitive to this distinction.