Pittsburgh, Newcastle, Lyon, Saint Etienne

Lyon, Saint-Étienne, Newcastle, and Pittsburgh allow for the tackling of similar questions and the analysis of similar processes. Industry has been a major engine of Lyon’s economic development, historically powered by coal from Saint-Étienne. It boasts a population of 500,000 and is France’s second largest city economically.  Newcastle-upon-Tyne has been an important industrial and manufacturing city since the 16th century and currently has almost 900,000 inhabitants. Pittsburgh and Saint-Etienne are also “medium-sized cities” in their respective national contexts—with 300,000 and 200,000 inhabitants, respectively. All 4 cities underwent a phase of great development during the 19th century followed by crashes in the 1930s and again in the 1970s.

These 4 industrial cities are now facing processes of deep economic, political and social transformation often summed up by the term  “metropolization.” But, they differ in terms of relative success, geography, and in their urban dynamics. Pittsburgh has overcome the vicious circle of decline notably due to its dynamic sectors of health-related services and higher education. Lyon has seen a period of sustained growth since  the 1980’s. Saint-Etienne still struggles. And Newcastle envisions itself as a leader in its region and plans to become “the first Carbon Neutral town” in the UK by 2050.  The European cities have benefited in different ways and to different degrees by policies enacted in Brussels. In particular, the promotion of urban questions through the European network of cities (Eurocities; Lyon and Newcastle are founding members; Saint-Etienne joined later) will shape researchers’ approaches to this question. In the case of Newcastle, a secondary, but also important aspect of the project will be to examine the impact of Brexit on city-level governance and urban redevelopment policies.  Taking city-networking into account, notably through Eurocities, is central to European cities remaining key actors in urban renewal, even as the EU-level may weaken because of Brexit. This tradition of city-networking is unique to Europe. American cities, like Pittsburgh, have only recently begun to embrace networks for lobbying and best-practice sharing.

Meanwhile, the cities are all engaged – at various levels – in moving towards new sustainability practices, which will be informed by the second pole of research in this project. 

The global debate over energy production has reflected the need to balance economic concerns and global prices with security and environmental ones.  In the EU, a top-down, centralized approach has driven much of the policy, which focuses largely on achieving ambitious reductions in carbon emissions as part of the EU’s obligations as a signatory member of the Kyoto Protocol. In the US, energy concerns are centered on security, despite the US not ratifying the Paris Climate  Agreement. In addition, the US often uses a “bottom-up” approach to develop its energy policies, allowing significant input from individual states on energy policy. In this project, researchers will examine how these various factors have influenced policy makers in the U.S. and Europe in the formation of energy policy, particularly regarding both sustainable sources of energy and unconventional gas resources. In particular, tensions between local and national/supranational concerns will be explored, with a focus on a comparative investigation of the role of European integration and the dynamics that the single market vs. decentralized state approach has had on sustainable energy policy. How different is the trajectory that European integration has set for the potential of this energy market in Europe?  In this context, the impact of Brexit  on energy supplies and energy policy will be a key consideration, as will the impact of Europe-wide policies on member states  (and vice-versa) and on transatlantic trade and investment.

Over the past decade, the development of unconventional gas has enormously enhanced natural gas production, contributed substantially to economic growth and greatly improved energy security in the U.S.  Around the world, public and private entities are now making efforts to develop unconventional gas resources to emulate U.S. success.  However, both in the U.S. and Europe, the development of shale gas by the only technique currently available—hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) combined with horizontal drilling—has aroused controversy and posed a unique set of challenges for government officials. Balancing the desire to attract and support energy industry investors while raising revenues through taxes and/or impact fees; negotiating between industry and energy demands and multi-faceted environmental concerns from the public and renewable energy proponents, the development of shale gas has generated a wide variety of governance challenges at the local, state, national and supranational levels.

This  project will have a problem-solving focus: exploring the range of challenges that hydraulic fracturing triggers, both to the geology and biosphere as well as to society itself; exploring strategies to achieve Paris Climate goals with varying degrees of national support; and evaluating the success of carbon markets as a policy tool. Equally vital will be suggesting pathways for improving scientific and policy knowledge about responding to these core concerns.   Given the longer timescale of US efforts in shale, the project will focus on what the American experience has to teach the EU, particularly given the different regulatory, market and other contexts created by EU integration dynamics. But reciprocal lessons will be drawn from EU experience in energy transitions and carbon markets. One key component of Newcastle’s contribution will be to investigate the impact of Brexit on shale gas and nuclear power governance. On the Pittsburgh side, one contribution will be to explore lessons that U.S. states and cities can learn from the EU about meeting climate goals despite the federal government’s rejection of the Paris Climate Agreement.