The role of cities in low-carbon energy transitions: Understanding capacities, challenges and conflicts in Hong Kong and Hamburg

Ms Ting Ting Tracy Cheung1,2, Dr.  Sara Fuller1, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Oßenbrügge2

1Department of Geography and Planning, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia

2Institute of Geography and Cluster of Excellence Climate, Climatic Change, and Society, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany


A range of policy and academic actors such as the UN and IPCC have highlighted the important role of urban fabric and city functioning in response to climate change imperatives. In this context, one important perspective is the Urban Energy Transitions (UETs) literature which considers the inherent relationship between transformations of energy systems on one hand and urban change towards sustainability on the other. Drawing on UET approaches, this paper identifies potential barriers to energy transitions and explores the capacity of cities to address embedded challenges such as political systems or infrastructure networks. Through empirical research exploring political discourses and material struggles in Hong Kong and Hamburg, it demonstrates how the goals, visions and pathways of UETs are constantly shaped, translated and contested by actors with a range of social, economic and political interests. By mapping the transition narratives of the two case study cities, the paper offers insights into cities’ respective capabilities and differentiated responses to energy transitions.


Tracy is a joint-PhD candidate between Macquarie University and the University of Hamburg. She received her MSc in Integrated Climate System Sciences from the University of Hamburg and BEng in Mechanical Engineering from Hong Kong (her home town). Her area of research interest includes energy-climate politics, urban materiality and options, and city-regional practices on climate change and environment.

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