chapter  8
Exploring the epistemic politics of urban niche experiments
Pages 1

Cities play a significant role in responding to climate change (UN 2014; IPCC 2014). A growing range of actors have sought to mobilise action in response to this urgent agenda, including transnational organisations, national governments and local administrations. Such interventions have fruitfully been considered in terms of experiments to recognise their often-tentative nature, the sense of testing or establishing practice and the ways in which they are used as means of supporting or contesting knowledge claims and discursive positions. Sociotechnical experiments addressing the urban dimensions of climate change, often framed as ‘smart city’ programmes, create new forms of political space within the city, intersecting public and private authority. Experiments are primarily enacted through forms of technical intervention in infrastructure networks, drawing attention to the importance of such sites in urban climate politics (Castán Broto and Bulkeley 2013). Analyses of urban climate governance are needed that engage with the multiple actors through which governing is conducted. As local authorities seek to engage with climate change with limited resources and knowledge they invariably turn to an enabling mode of governance that depends on engaging with multiple actors, discrete sources of financial assistance, and often on ‘reframing’ climate change as an issue related to core agendas (economic growth, congestion, air pollution, urban planning and so on). The patchwork of responses thus produced has been criticised as indicative of a lack of capacity to coordinate and deliver an integrated, planned approach to urban climate governance (CorfeeMorlot et al. 2011). Other authors, however, see it as a process of variation and selection that can usefully adapt to uncertainties associated with the feasibility of different approaches and difficulties in identifying the intended and unintended effects of governance actions and strategies (Rotmans and Loorbach 2010; Avelino and Grin 2017). The relatively protected spaces in which innovation and experimentation take place, conceptualised as niches, have been presented as critical to the process of socio-technical change (Hoogma et al. 2004; Smith and Raven 2012). As innovative technologies are applied in a social setting, novel forms of social