Contesting climate justice in the city: Examining politics and practice in urban climate change experiments

Contesting climate justice in the city: Examining politics and practice in urban climate change experiments

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 at the urban scale. They suggest it is practical and necessary to do so to achieve the broad aims of climate justice, because while attempts at international level seek to reduce power inequalities between states, such inequalities also exist within nation-states and impact upon the experience of climate change for the poorest and most vulnerable. This paper is split into three sections, the first considers how climate justice has been framed to date at the international level – which has focussed on rights and responsibilities, in relation to procedures and distributions. The second argues there is need for expansion of the conceptual framework to include recognition – in order to capture the multi-dimensional nature of what responses might entail. This is especially important for considering justice at the urban level – where a number of socio-economic injustices related to climate change are produced and re-produced. The third section illustrates how urban climate change experiments have been pursued and what their implications are in relation to climate justice.

The authors present cases from five cities: Bangalore, Monterrey, Hong Kong, Philadelphia and Berlin, and highlight how justice was conceptualised, practised and contested in each. They found that when climate justice was framed in terms of responsibilities, there was latent consideration of power imbalances, which impacted upon how mitigation projects were implemented. When framed in terms of rights, there was attention to patterns of advantage and disadvantage in the policy for climate change projects, but this either weakened when it came to implementation, or over-focussed on the rights of one group who were uninterested over the rights of a larger constituency who were keen to address the issue. The authors argue that the incorporation of recognition concerns would be useful as a starting point to explore what types of rights, responsibilities, procedures and distributions should be pursued to achieve forms of climate justice.

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