Retrofitting cities: Local governance in Sydney, Australia

Robyn Dowling*, Pauline McGuirk, Harriet Bulkeley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Transforming cities to a lower carbon future is one of the key challenges of contemporary urban governance. Retrofitting the city - or modifying existing urban infrastructures, buildings and daily life to suit different energy sources and different expectations of energy consumption - is essential to this transformation. In urban studies, little focus has yet been applied to the shape and character of urban governance frameworks and mechanisms required to successfully retrofit cities. In this paper we address this lacuna by exploring the logics, practices and dynamics of retrofitting governance in the Australian city. Using a governmentality perspective, the paper identifies the involvements of different scales of government in retrofitting policies and mechanisms and connections between them. Based on a unique survey of carbon reduction initiatives involving government, business and community actors across Australia's capital cities, we outline the types of retrofitting solutions being proposed and enacted. Using a focus on local initiatives from Sydney, Australia's largest city, the paper documents four key techniques through which retrofitting is being governed - self-governing, holistic, facilitative and educative. The findings suggest that governance gaps remain in attending to the daily life of technologies and the materiality of daily life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-24
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Australian cities
  • Governmentality
  • Retrofitting
  • Urban climate governance


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