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Abstract

This paper utilizes insights from urban political ecology (UPE) to highlight the importance of carbon in urban climate politics. Through an emphasis on the socio-material politics of urban climate governance, this analysis provides an explicit account of the performance of power within and over the urban landscape. Two specific efforts are reviewed here, including local greenhouse gas inventorying practices and urban educational and outreach efforts to create carbon conscious citizens. By considering these social and political processes in relation to ecological aspects of urban carbon cycling, it becomes evident that urban interventions into climate change do little to disrupt or restructure the ways in which carbon flows into or out of cities and instead operate at the level of carbon representation (via measurement) and subjection (via educational outreach). A UPE framework also helps highlight the ways in which urban carbon governance erases importance aspects of social and spatial difference among carbon emitters and how efforts to change individual behavior direct attention away from carbon intensive urban development. The review concludes with some thoughts on why social scientists should pay closer attention to the myriad ways that carbon is modeled, measured, and monitored as an ecological, technical, and political project in the world's cities.