In 2009 a programme was launched, steered jointly by the Foresight Mission of the French Ecology Ministry and by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), called “Rethinking Cities in a Post-carbon Society.” The programme’s work is still on-going towards a final report planned for 2013. The idea of a transition towards a “post-carbon” society embraces four main objectives: the reduction of greenhouse gases by 2050 to one quarter of their 1990 levels, virtual autonomy in respect of carbon-based energies (oil, gas and coal), an adequate capacity for adaptation to climate change and, lastly, greater attention to situations of energy precariousness.
As part of the dossier Futuribles is devoting, this month, to this programme, Cyria Emelianoff and Elsa Mor show, in this article, how certain cities have gradually taken this subject on board, developing –often thanks to civil society initiatives and the emergence of networks of pioneering cities at the European level– highly ambitious strategies of transition towards less carbon energy consumption and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Here they outline two concrete cases of cities that are highly active in this field, Hanover and Bristol, showing their aims, the strategies deployed, the levers used and the results obtained. They particularly stress the importance played in these two transitions by the economic and environmental departments coming together on the question, and also by the development of “multi-partner” approaches. They are, nevertheless, critical of the difficulties in establishing proper “multi-scale climate governance” involving –above and beyond these pioneering cities– the regional, national, European and international levels, with a view to a more large-scale post-carbon transition.