Low carbon – High sustainability: Decarbonizing the Valley of the Sun


Phoenix-Metropolitan Area, USA

local partners

City of Tempe (municipal government)

• City of Phoenix (municipal government)

Local First Arizona (non-profit)


Cities in the Phoenix-area, known as the Valley of the Sun, are working to reduce carbon dependence and increase renewable energy use. The City of Phoenix has the goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. The City of Tempe recently approved the creation of a Climate Action Plan. Local Arizona First has thousands of local business members who are enthusiastic about sustainability. Innovative and transformative solutions implemented across multiple municipalities, and including varied organizations and communities are required to turn the Valley’s sustainability goals into reality. Arizona State University’s Urban Living Lab (ASULL), led by the School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS) and in collaboration with local partners, will design and implement capacity building experiments to facilitate decarbonization efforts at the food-water-energy nexus. In particular, ASULL will focus on experiments that leverage community-based entrepreneurship and innovation in service of local sustainability goals.

ASULL will be directed by the following applied research questions: What are major actions at the food-water-energy nexus that Valley cities can take to decarbonize and achieve broader sustainability objectives like inter/intra-generational equity and livelihood sufficiency and opportunity? What do stakeholders, including municipal leaders, local business owners, and
community members need to know and be able to do in order to support and carry out these actions? To answer these questions ASULL will: (i) Identify catalytic actions that can be taken by different stakeholders to spur innovation, entrepreneurship, and investment at the food-waterenergy (FWE) nexus. (ii) Assess and prioritize catalytic actions for the impact on decarbonization efforts, broader sustainability objectives, and public support. (iii) Design, test and implement capacity building experiments, located in Phoenix and/or Tempe, aimed at enabling stakeholders to take high
priority, high impact actions.

For this research, ASULL will draw on prior work with an established stakeholder network including existing capacity building partnerships with the City of Tempe and City of Phoenix, and evidence from successful local and international solutions. Through this project, ASULL will seek to create an environment that stimulates, steers, and supports entrepreneurship and innovation at the food, water, energy nexus. In particular, ASULL will create fundamental knowledge about the role of community-based innovation systems in facilitating and promoting decarbonization in ways that address broader sustainability challenges.

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