Low-carbon promises and realities: Lessons from three socio-technical experiments in Shanghai

Harry den Hartog, Frans Sengers, Ye Xu, Linjun Xie, Ping Jiang, Martin de Jong

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


China's ongoing transition to a modern urban-centered economy is accompanied by ambitions of sustained economic growth as well as promises of environmentally sustainable futures for its cities. In this paper we critically assess how these two ideas are combined and translated into realities on the ground by examining three low-carbon development projects in Shanghai: Anting New Town, Dongtan Eco-City, and Hongqiao CBD's low-carbon transportation hub. By mobilizing insights from the academic field of Sustainability Transitions – specifically on expectations, experimentation and innovation journeys – we show how the original plans derailed and why until now there has been limited success in living up to the promises of sustainability. To realize the promises more fully in future projects we identify three broad lessons for the actors involved: they should nurture a set of parallel pathways, foster a more experimentalist mindset, and learn to embrace uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-702
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering


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