Ying Zhou

PhD candidate
Ying Zhou

Ying is a PhD candidate in Sustainability Management in the Faculty of Environment's School of Environment, Enterprise, and Development (SEED). She holds an MES in Sustainability Management from the University of Waterloo and a BSc Honours in Environmental Science from Queen's University. Her current research interests are focused on understanding the configurations of cities as an organizational field in tackling grand challenges and exploring how governance and institutional structure influence the ways the cities plan and undertake actions.

The need to address climate change is urgent, as it is considered a grand challenge for the current and future generations. These grand challenges are highly complex, uncertain, and evaluative and cannot be resolved by individual institutions, governments, or businesses alone. With up to 70% of global GHG emissions occurring in cities, Canada's communities need to be at the forefront of deep decarbonization practices and play a critical role in the federal commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050. Although there is widespread agreement on the notion that decarbonization is a collective and community-wide process, there is a need to deepen our understanding of the connections between governments, businesses, civil society organizations, and field-level changes. Unfortunately, due to the complex assemblage of institutions, networks, and socio-technical arrangements in cities, many fail to achieve meaningful progress toward the carbon neutrality goal. Moreover, the overarching governance structure and decarbonization pathways on the local scale has not been studied closely, and the role of cities in the low-carbon transition has often been under-evaluated. Thus, the main challenge remains with designing robust institutional arrangements and structural features for transformative field-level changes.

Ying's research aims to adopt an institutional lens on identifying the local decarbonization pathways and governance structures for municipalities in the Canadian context. Specifically, she will conduct analyses on the optimal pathways, strategies, actors, and governance arrangements for stimulating community-wide changes and achieving the 2050 Paris Agreement targets. Currently, over 60 interviews have been conducted with municipalities across the country.

Ying's previous research focused on the potential use of market-based instruments (MBIs) for implementing sustainable community plans. Ying's Master's research was built on existing literature and two pilot communities to develop a Sustainability Alignment Methodology (SAM). SAM is a tool that considers the market-based instruments under municipal jurisdiction, which might help achieve the environmental goals in the sustainable community plan. Her study made an important contribution to sustainable community development by equipping municipal governments with a better understanding of market-based instruments and a useful tool for implementing their sustainable community plan. It also contributes theoretically to our understanding of the applicability of MBIs on the local level.

Recent Publication:

Zhou, Y., Clarke, A.,& Cairns, S. (2020). Building Sustainable Communities Through Market‐Based Instruments (pp. 233-247). Walker, T., Goubran, S. & Sprung-Much, N. (Eds.) Environmental Policy: An Economic Perspective. USA: Wiley Blackwell. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119402619.ch14

Courses Taught

ENBUS 652/GEMCC 650 - Business and Climate Change


LinkedIn: Ying Zhou