Transforming Institutions and Governance for Climate Justice

How does the climate crisis challenge existing institutions and governance structures, and what kinds of novel and reformed governance practices might support more livable futures in a climate-uncertain world? Discourses of ‘climate emergency’, ‘climate transformation’ and ‘just transition’ are not limited to biophysical, or social and economic changes, but also implicate questions of law, authority, and governance more broadly. For instance, ‘climate emergency’ might imply departures from status quo governance regimes, or efforts to revise our fundamental resource governance practices. Among other examples, Indigenous scholars and leaders have pointed to the hypocrisy implicit in naming this an ‘emergency,’ highlighting the longer term and ongoing destruction of life-worlds linked with colonialism and colonial governance. This research stream grapples with the challenges posed by climate crisis for existing institutions, laws, and governance practices. It investigates diverse and changing norms and structures for ordering life, particularly to enliven and cultivate novel and reemergent institutional forms which are likely to be more equitable and sustainable. It asks how, by whom, and to what ends the climate crisis is defined; what kinds of institutional transformations are emerging to grapple with new climate realities and what their implications are for social and environmental justice; and what ways of ordering life might sustain more just and livable futures.

Projects and Partnerships

Transforming Cities from Within – Research collaboration with faculty and students from School of Community and Regional Planning and Department of Educational Studies funded by the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF)

Contact: Maggie Low (Co-PI)


N. Wilson… L. Harris…. et al (2022) From ‘trust’ to ‘trustworthiness’: Retheorizing Dynamics of Trust, Distrust, and Water Security in North America Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.

Meehan, K., W. Jepson, Harris, L.M., A. Wutich, et al (extended list of authors includes S. Shah, D. Splichalova) (2020) Exposing the Myths of Household water Insecurity in the global North: a critical review. Wires Water

Wilson, N.J., Harris, L.M., Joseph-Rear, A., Beaumont, J. and Satterfield, T. (2019). Water is Medicine: Reimagining Water Security through Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Relationships to Treated and Traditional Water Sources in Yukon, Canada. Water 11(3): 624.

K. McFarlane, L. Harris (2018) Small systems, big challenges: Review of small drinking water system governance Environmental Reviews

Harris, L., E. Chu, G. Ziervogel (2017) Negotiated Resilience. Resilience Journal. 6:3, 196-214. DOI: 10.1080/ 21693293.2017.1353196

Yates, J., N. Wilson, L. Harris (2017) Multiple Ontologies of Water: Politics, conflict and implications for governance. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 35, 5: 797–815 DOI: 10.1177/0263775817700395

Jollymore, A., K. McFarlane, L. Harris (2017) Whose Input Counts? Evaluating the process and outcomes of public consultation through the BC Water Act Modernization. Critical Policy Studies. DOI: 10.1080/19460171.2017.1282377


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