FacebookTwitterLinkedInCopy LinkEmailPrint
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.