Olazabal, Marta, & Unai Pascual (2015). Urban low-carbon transitions: cognitive barriers and opportunities. Journal of Cleaner Production, 109, 336-346.

Abstract: This paper addresses the importance of the cognitive dimension in urban sustainability transition policy practice. Many and diverse actors with contrasting interests interact in urban sustainability transitions. Their perceptions and values impact the potential uptake of transition strategies in urban systems. It is thus important to understand how actors view themselves involved in such processes. A case study on low carbon transitions for the city of Bilbao (Basque Country) is presented to explore the barriers and opportunities for an energy transition using Q methodology. Results suggest that stakeholders’ motivation and perceived capacity for change are mainly related to four main discourses: follower, visionary, pragmatist and sceptic. Results also indicate that information exchange, communication and participation in decision-making processes, bridging visionaries and pragmatists with decision-makers, are key for bringing about effective transition processes. This study contributes to identifying attitudes of actors who can negotiate urban low-carbon transitions and stresses the need to build a common shared cognitive vision of whether and how sustainable urban transformation can take place.

Marta Olazabal <marta.olazabal@bc3research.org> is with the Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, and the Basque Centre for Climate Change, Bilbao, Spain.