Politics of Manageability: Ambiguities of Local Climate Change Mitigation

PhD defence

Sara Kristine Gløjmar Berthou


This  thesis  revolves around  ideas  of  social  change  and  attempts  to  ameliorate  the  consequences  of  climate change  at  the  local  level. Based on  extensive  ethnographic  fieldwork participating  in  the making  of  a  Local  Agenda  21  plan the thesis explores  rationales  and  practices  of planning,  governing  and  managing  the  social  as  it  unfolds  in  local  climate  change mitigation in the municipality of Copenhagen.

The overall research objectives of the thesis seek to investigate the overall rationales and practices that shape the way climate change mitigation is conceived of; the ways in which these rationales and practices are related to the actual experiences of citizens; who and what are the targets of local mitigation activities; and the larger societal context that supports these kinds of rationales and practices. Drawing on a combination of social practice theories  and  governmentality  studies,  the  argument  of  the  thesis  is  that  local  climate change mitigation activities are mainly conceived through  economic  knowledge  forms.

The thesis argues that local climate change mitigation is characterised by a number of ambiguities: On the one hand, there is a genuine wish to rethink and create change, which is taken seriously in practice, and on the other hand, a line of institutional limitations that shape the work according to what is internally meaningful, thus reproducing status quo. Conclusively, the thesis argues that all these dynamics are rooted in the need for manageability. While  the process of  involving citizens  in  the making of  the Local Agenda  21  plan  have  potential  for  renewing  institutional  understandings  and  practices, the  thesis thus argues  that  if  local mitigation activities are  to create  significant  social change, civil  servants need  to be given a wider mandate, allocation of  funding, as well as  serious political support for the climate change mitigation agenda.

Principal Supervisor

Associate Professor Tove Enggrob Boon, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Assessment Committee

Associate Professor Lise Byskov Herslund, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management (IGN), University of Copenhagen (chairman);

Professor Gordon Walker, Science and Technology, Lancaster University, UK;

Senior Lecturer Matt Watson, Department of Geography, University of Exeter, UK.