Justice in urban climate change adaptation: criteria and application to Delhi

Justice in urban climate change adaptation: criteria and application to Delhi

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 criteria for identifying justice in urban scale climate change responses. This article is organized into three sections. It begins by contextualizing the concept of climate justice at the urban level by describing the adaptation challenges faced by cities and how vulnerabilities intersect with them. The second section discusses the ways in which justice could be considered, through first representing vulnerable groups in the planning processes of climate change adaptation; second through prioritizing their needs and,; third, impacts and outcomes which enhance their freedoms and assets. It adds that in order to account for the issues faced by vulnerable groups viz-a-viz climate change, one has to recognize the potential mechanisms of injustice. They present a four-point criteria for identifying injustice at the urban level, which includes: 
i) the political economy of poverty – the politics of citizenship, inclusion, exclusion and representation at the city-level which can lead to marginalized groups 
ii) thick injustice – deeply rooted injustice which emerges as a result of historic decision-making and governance at the city-level which is difficult to identify and thus counter 
iii) technocratic governance – activities pursued in languages and data which are technical and thus exclude citizens without such experience or fluency
 iii) institutional capacities – insufficient capacity administrative, technical or financial capacities at the local government level to pursue just climate change policies

The article uses this thinking to explore climate justice and injustice in the case of Delhi through a range of interviews with government, NGOs and academia. It highlighted that the city, although an early adopter of climate change adaptation, did not satisfy any of three criteria for justice. It found that the political economy of poverty and insufficient government capacity were the drivers of this injustice. The author calls for more research into these mechanisms of injustice, and a broader consideration in future climate change policies and planning of how citizenship and participation impact the potential for urban climate justice.

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