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Dissertation Lisa Harseim

Working Title

The role of world cities for accountable multi-scalar phosphorus (P) flow governance in globalized food systems


Phosphorus (P) is a finite, non-substitutable, indispensable and critical resource for agriculture that requires a fundamental change in its governance, utilizing economically viable circularity efforts, to eliminate threats of scarcity, eutrophication, and environmental justice. However, to be able to apply more than superficial fixes, prerequisite is an understanding of what drives and governs the vulnerable and unsustainable P flows particularly in the globalized food system which is based on industrialized agriculture. Unlike climate governance organized under the Paris Agreement, calls for accountability of P governance lack a normative, international, politically binding goal to be legitimate and, thus, require support.

Since transnational food supply chains are governed by a global network of actors under no authority of an international institution, the lower administrative scale offers opportunities for intervention in a bottom-up approach with cities being a promising starting point. The focus lies on ‘world-’ or, as a subset, ‘global cities’ because they dominate the urban throughput of P containing food and material flows, as well as economic networks, governance power and in terms of capacity to take resource governance action. Research on climate governance has increasingly debated the role of urban accountability in meeting environmental targets but the concept has not been explored in the context of P or urban resource flows which could benefit from learnings of the food system and resource governance field.

The project is expected to run from 2021-2024 and supervised by Jun.-Prof. Dr. Cathrin Zengerling, LL. M. (Univ. Michigan) of Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg, Germany and Assoc.-Prof. Dr. Geneviève Metson of Linköping University, Sweden.

Keywords: nutrient governance, accountability, industrial ecology, resource management, glocalization

Publications: Updates and publications of the project will be communicated on researchgate.



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