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What is "Just Transition"?

Climate justice and global cities: Mapping the emerging discourses

The paper draws on case studies and a database of initiatives from 100 cities to examine the emergence of the discourses on distributive and procedural justice in urban responses to climate change.


The paper seeks to examine the ways in which concerns about justice are being articulated in the planning and implementation of urban climate change policy and projects, and consider the extent to which the city provides an arena within which questions of climate justice could be thought anew. The authors showcase the differences across the mitigation and adaptation domains in the ways by which the principles of climate justice have been articulated. They have also addressed some of the critical challenges in translating these principles into the urban arena. Drawing on an analysis of the projects and interventions taking place in 100 global cities in response to climate change, they have identified the explicit articulations of distributive and procedural justice across the adaptation and mitigation domains in only a small number of cities.

The authors highlight how the urban context brings to the fore the difficult questions of forms of procedure and type of participation, which could count as “just”, in the context of the widely-variegated forms of climate change response. While similar principles of distributive and procedural justice can be applied to both mitigation and adaptation, in practice, notions of justice are articulated differently across these domains. The authors also highlight specifically the differences in the ways in which justice has been articulated and what it has come to mean when it is framed at different scales, from nation states to individuals.

The authors find that there is limited explicit concern with justice at the urban level. However, where discourses of justice are evident, there are important differences emerging between urban responses to adaptation and mitigation, and between those in the north and in the south. Adaptation responses tend to stress the distribution of the “rights” to protection, although those in the South also emphasize the importance of procedural justice. Mitigation responses also stress the “rights” to the benefits of responding to climate change, with a limited concern for “responsibilities” or for procedural justice. The authors also find that while adaptation responses tend to focus on the rights of individuals, discourses of collective rights are emerging in relation to mitigation. They notice less of an emphasis on matters of procedural justice; such matters are more likely to be a concern in initiatives in the south, whereas responses in the north (often focused on the adaptation to heat) are more technocratic in their orientation.

Using climate finance to advance climate justice: the politics and practice of channeling resources to the local level

The report makes a case for the targeting of adaptation finance at the local levels of government through direct access modalities to address equity concerns and describes the main obstacles local governments and local civil society groups face in accessing adaptation finance.


The authors argue that some of the social, political, and economic processes that create and sustain inequalities within a country are typically the same as those that allocate climate finance. Adaptation finance may, therefore, advance climate justice between countries, while doing little to enhance climate justice within countries. The latter is viewed, in part, as a means of increasing justice through the redistribution of resources.

Using an urban lens for its analysis of low- and middle-income countries, the report outlines the ways that local governments and local civil society groups can increase the adaptive capacities of urban residents. The subsequent section identifies the barriers to disbursing adaptation finance to local organizations by illustrating how power relations favoring national and formal agencies create various economic, technical, and institutional obstacles for local organizations. This analysis informs the assessment of financial intermediaries and planning systems as entities that could be deployed to enable local organizations to access adaptation finance. The authors use some examples to illustrate how municipal authorities and organized groups of urban residents have been successful in using small amounts of resources to shift political dynamics. They suggest that there is scope for adaptation finance to have a transformational impact on procedural and distributive climate justice.

The authors acknowledge the risks involved, as channeling finance to the local level could end up: supporting patronage networks and clientelism; overburdening local actors with responsibilities beyond their existing capabilities and lead to the formalization of their processes that result in new exclusions; and/or making such organizations dependent on donors, rather than strengthening local accountabilities. However, the authors suggest that there are emerging capabilities, particularly within some local civil society agencies, that can enable the reversal of exclusionary practices and demonstrate how this may work with respect to adaptation finance.