Waterfront Toronto

Waterfront Toronto, an independent corporation established in 2001, is in the process of redeveloping 800 hectares of land along Toronto’s shore of Lake of Ontario with ambitious green building standards and district energy infrastructure. Redevelopment is Waterfront Toronto’s primary goal, but the corporation has also set energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction targets. Minimum Green Building Requirements, a central feature of Waterfront Toronto’s decarbonization efforts, have increased Toronto’s development industry’s capacity for green building, and continue to ratchet-up green building education, research, and standards. The neighbourhoods involved in the project have become an exceptional pilot space that allows for experiential learning, which can inform traditional governance. In fact, City of Toronto officials are learning from the Waterfront Toronto standards and regard the initiative as upholding “best practices”.

Waterfront Toronto’s efforts to transform the building and construction market in order to broadly engender lower carbon urban development offer important lessons. Key among these lessons is that there are both benefits and limitations to the strategy of using pilot urban spaces to try to catalyze broader decarbonization. In addition, the international connections made by Waterfront Toronto to other urban redevelopment projects shows how conscious copying of decarbonization interventions in different places may lead to islands of decarbonization rather than widespread transformation unless decarbonization is catalyzed beyond the pilot space.

The Climate Group’s SMART2020

The Climate Group is a not-for-profit organization focused on inspiring and catalyzing leadership for a low carbon future. The Climate Group has a membership of states and regions that represent half a billion people and large companies that have a combined revenue of $1 trillion USD. One initiative developed by The Climate Group to catalyze low carbon leadership is SMART2020. The SMART 2020 initiative seeks to advance and support the implementation of information and communication technology (ICT) in applications that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative brokers city-business relationships in order to develop cities as markets for ICT innovation for carbon abatement.

SMART2020 encountered opposition to ‘smart city’ overhauls over the course of its operations, demonstrating that planned decarbonization interventions with an overemphasis on technological solutions will encounter political obstacles. Political opposition was raised in cities where critics demanded greater democratic participation and accountability for the changes promoted through the SMART 2020 platform. As a result of this contestation, the broader ‘smart cities’ movement shifted from a technological focus to a focus on citizen engagement. SMART 2020 had to adapt to this reframing and grapple with an important question: How can we approach a low carbon transition democratically without completely redirecting the initiative to replace low-carbon transitions with democracy as the intended outcome?

C40 Electric Vehicle Network

The C40 Electric Vehicle Network (EVN) introduced as a pilot project in 2009 with five participating C40 cities (London, Toronto, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Seoul) and formalized less than a year later with fourteen C40 cities. The Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), which initiated the network, focused on Electric Vehicles (EVs) as a “low hanging fruit” that could provide meaningful emissions reductions without requiring significant behaviour change. The network has continued to expand its membership and evolve its organizational form. The C40 has taken over the EVN from the CCI, the scope of activities has broadened from a strict focus on EVs to all modes of low emissions transport (the initiative was re-labeled as the Low Emissions Vehicle Network in 2014), and a greater emphasis has been placed on outreach, inter-city interaction, and information sharing.


The EVN initially worked to build capacity within local governments by providing information on the benefits of EVs and encouraging the development of EV charging infrastructure in order to stimulate demand. EVN’s capacity building initiatives have since shifted to facilitating more city-city interactions to create opportunities for knowledge transfer and enhanced market opportunities for commercial actors in the EV sector. It remains unclear, however, whether these interactions have meaningfully encouraged or shaped EV governance at a local level, as there are both active and inactive cities belonging to the EVN. Active cities, especially those such as Bogota who have implemented the spin-off initiative Hybrid and Electric Bus Test Program (HEBTP) have experienced high levels of success in their EV efforts. The HEBTP, although only active in a small number of cities, has fostered stronger inter-city and manufacturer coalitions, especially as compared with early efforts by the EVN, and shows the greatest evidence of and promise for future scaling. Overall, EVN activity is underrepresented in C40, but there is evidence of successful transformation in some cities as well as indications of organizational adaption that may contribute to enhancing transformative uptake in the future.

Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate

The Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP) was formally launched in 2006 in Sydney Australia by the governments of the U.S., Japan, China, India, Australia, and South Korea, whilst Canada joined soon after. Partner states “collectively accounted for more than half of the world’s economy, population, and energy use.” The APP’s goal was to address development, energy, environment and climate change issues through approaches contrary to the Kyoto protocol, but it was concluded on April 2011.

The APP was an initiative with mixed outcomes. Partners were allowed to take minimum emission reduction responsibilities that tended to reinforce carbon lock-in in the short run. This was largely as a result of a voluntarism principle, a technology-focused approach, and very limited ambitions. However, more positive impacts include a lasting focus on minilateralism, a fostering of public-private partnerships, and the promotion of a horizontal international partnership between North and South. Though controversial and short-lived, the APP helped transform climate governance practices and it contributed to the growth of a transitional market on clean technology. Because the APP task-forces were proven to be valuable in increasing companies’ clean technology R&D capacities and in building transnational networks on clean technology, some of the task-forces of the APP were moved directly into the CEM after its conclusion.

Ontario Coal Phase Out

In 2003, the Ontario Liberal Government under Dalton McGuinty initiated the Ontario Coal Phase Out. The legislation aimed to shut down all coal burning power plants by 2015. After facing several initial setbacks, the phase-out was completed ahead of schedule when the last coal power plant was closed in 2014. The Ontario Coal Phase Out is considered to be “the single largest GHG reduction measure in North America,” and resulted in a 55% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario’s electricity sector since 2007. Additionally, air quality has improved significantly. On the other hand, electricity prices have increased from about 5 ¢/kWh to 10 ¢/kWh since 2003, although major infrastructure projects have most likely contributed to the increase.

The Ontario Coal Phase Out was driven in large part by the determined lobbying efforts of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance (OCAA) in collaboration with the Ontario Medial Association (OMA). This coalition was successful in convincing all three provincial political parties of the need to phase out coal in the lead up to the 2003 Ontario election. Public health concerns were the impetus for the OCAA and OMA’s lobbying efforts, with the environment as a secondary consideration. Both the work of the OCAA, the OMA, and successive Ontario governments demonstrate the GHG emission reduction benefits of phasing out coal power plants and hopefully serve as a model for other jurisdictions.

Global Subsidies Initiative and Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform

The Global Subsidies Initiative was created in 2005 by the International Institute for Sustainable Development and is currently the only NGO in the world to focus exclusively on fossil fuel subsidy reform. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, GSI is dedicated to “analyzing subsidies… and how they support or undermine efforts to achieve sustainable development.” GSI provides research and technical and logistical assistance to NGOs, countries, and intergovernmental organizations working towards fossil fuel subsidy reform.

The efforts of the Global Subsidies Initiative demonstrate that there is both a space and audience for dialogue on fossil-fuel subsidy reform. However, GSI is not acting in isolation; a variety of factors have contributed to recent subsidy reform—changing energy prices, the global financial crisis, and the work of other NGOs and intergovernmental organizations—which make it difficult to identify a discrete causal pathway between GSI and subsidy reforms. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the organization’s efforts to strategically build capacity, grow diverse coalitions, and consistently advocate for reform have helped catalyze greater scaling and entrenchment in fossil fuel subsidy reform.


Energiewende is a series, or ecosystem, of German energy policies focused on transforming Germany’s energy supply from coal, oil and gas and nuclear energy to renewable energy. In 2010, a key policy document called the Energy Concept paper enhanced the coherence of previously disconnected policies dating as far back as the 1970s. The paper was aimed at uniting various policy initiatives, securing funding, and setting efficacy targets. The Energy Concept paper brought coherence to Germany’s Energiewende, but Energiewende is not a paper, policy, or an act. It is better defined as “a movement that coalesced over several decades.”

The decentralization of energy governance, as well as the growth of energy cooperatives, is an example of self-organized scaling through which Energiewende has created additional opportunities for decarbonization. The increased coherence between formerly disparate policies has also helped create a space where cities, originally pursuing climate action in isolation, could coordinate efforts. This drove a greater uptake of climate action by cities and states and contributed to the success of the energy transition. Furthermore, community ownership of energy has created a group of voters who benefit from renewable energy feed in tariffs, enhancing the program’s irreversibility and entrenchment. The laws that have been passed to enable Energiewende, such as those that institutionalized FITs, have also contributed to entrenchment via lock-in.

The Clean Energy Ministerial

The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM), which was introduced at COP15 in Copenhagen, is a global forum designed to advance clean energy technology and foster transnational cooperation surrounding clean tech research and development. The CEM includes representatives from governments of 23 countries and the EU. Similar to the Asia Pacific Partnership, CEM also promotes R&D diffusion between countries. However, CEM focuses primarily on policy makers as opposed to private partners. Through formal governance structures and policy change, CEM seeks to influence the market indirectly.

CEM may not have an explicit emissions reduction mandate, but it has been successful in its pursuit of state policy and regulation change. This success is reflective of its belief that in order to transition to clean energy, national governments must cooperate. CEM has built capacity for governmental policy makers, has forged strong coalitions, and has scaled-up by increasing its membership. CEM’s work in conjunction with other initiatives and International Organizations contributes to the normalization of decarbonization. In fact, the networking between CEM and these other actors has also contributed to CEM’s entrenchment – they cite each other’s documents and work closely on various projects. CEM has also seen the development of a steering committee that seeks to institutionalize the CEM, which suggests that the CEM is becoming further entrenched. CEM’s development, collaboration, and network suggest that it is far more than a single intervention— it is an important component of an environmental governance network.