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Urban Climate Justice

Toban B. | Flickr - climate justice - bigClimate change impacts are felt the greatest by vulnerable groups, such as low-income, marginalised communities, women and children. Not only do they tend to be more geographically exposed to climate hazards, they have fewer resources to be resilient. Developing countries are the least responsible for GhG emissions, yet have faced marginalisation in international climate negotiations. Historically, the biggest emitters have been hesitant to build critical mass on reducing their impacts, out of fear it will dampen economic growth. Climate justice represents a movement which re-conceptualises climate change as an ethical and moral issue; considering how its causes and impacts relate to social and environmental justice – creating unequal burdens. It supports vulnerable groups to influence decisions made at international climate change negotiations, to ensure the biggest emitters take greater responsibility, while not shirking their own mitigation and adaptation responsibilities. Climate justice focusses on the division of rights, responsibilities and recognition related to climate change – these concepts remain contested and normative.

Increasing attention is being paid to climate justice at the city scale. Authors contend that state-level climate justice may work to resolve inequalities at the global and international scales, but does not account for the structural inequalities within states which render some populations more vulnerable to climate change than others. Furthermore, every city has a different climate change and vulnerability context. While it remains a newly documented area, urban climate justice efforts have included:
  1. New forms of individual responsibility regarding climate change, in a discourse of civic engagement
  2. Promotion, incorporation and/or prioritisation of social justice concerns into adaptation projects, including rights to equitable benefits as well as protection from climate change impacts
  3. Incorporating a range of stakeholder voices through inclusive partnerships between government, civil society and private sector in urban adaptation planning


Image credit: Toban B. | Flickr

Contesting climate justice in the city: Examining politics and practice in urban climate change experiments
H. Bulkeley; G.A.S. Edwards; S. Fuller / Science Direct 2014
The concept of climate justice has been debated and contested at the scale of international climate change negotiations. Bulkeley and colleagues introduce the ways in which climate justice is being conceptualised, debated and pursued ...
Unjust waters: climate change, flooding and the urban poor in Africa
I. Douglas; K. Alam; M. Maghenda / Russell Sage Foundation 2008
Poor people living in hazardous and unhealthy environments in urban areas may find their difficulties compounded by the consequences of climate change. These include those who construct their shelters on steep, unstable hillsides, or ...
Justice in urban climate change adaptation: criteria and application to Delhi
S. Hughes / Ecology and Society 2013
The authors argue that it is not only important to understand if adaptation as it is implemented in cities is just, but that the way in which it is conceptualized and planned must be just too. They call for the development of clear cr...
Participatory planning, justice, and climate change in Durban, South Africa
A. Aylett / Environment and Planning A 2010
This academic article explores how participatory governance in urban environmental planning was implemented and experience in Durban, a coastal city in South Africa. The author, Aylett, contextualises participatory governance with the...
Gender justice and climate justice: community-based strategies to increase women’s political agency in watershed management in times of climate change
P. Figueiredo; P.E. Perkins / York University 2011
Women are one of the groups which are disproportionately affected by climate change in developing countries, especially in relation to culturally prescribed roles related to water management. Women are however, often un-represented in...