Often, the challenges of urban inequality and climate change are treated in isolation from one another. While one is considered baggage of the past, the other is the challenge of the future. But climate crises will intersect with and further compound existing and historical urban inequalities. Historically marginalized communities are the most vulnerable to the climate crisis, as they often live in precarious housing that is in close proximity to environmental hazards. This necessitates centring vulnerable communities in the climate action plans of cities. However, climate policy experts continue to offer action plans that are technocratic, globally standardized, and infrastructure-centred. These purely technical solutions neglect not only the future climate vulnerabilities of these communities but also the vulnerabilities rooted in existing inequalities.
On the other hand, in many cities in the Global South, activists and social movements have been engaged in struggles against such inequalities, and are putting up concrete and specific demands rooted in their visions of just future cities. In this context, we propose an ‘urban climate justice from below’ collaborative approach to understand climate change futures through social justice histories. Our project, titled ‘Urban Climate Justice from Below’, aims to better understand urban climate justice by studying and learning from social justice movements.
The project aims to collect, synthesize, and showcase the voices of front-line activists working at the intersection of urban inequalities and climate justice in the Global South. The research design will include an interview schedule designed to elicit narratives from these activists around: (i) their visions of a just and equitable city, (ii) multi-dimensional, historical and existing urban inequalities grappling the cities, (iii) activist demands, agendas, and actions for addressing these inequalities, (v) activist demands, agendas, and actions for ensuring equitability and justice in the face of climate change, and (iv) contribution and support expected from the academia. Apart from academic outputs, the project website will host activist spotlights and blog posts based on the interviews. These will be supplemented with occasional Policy Notes and Notes for Activists on the lessons emerging from the research. Through this research, we aim to redefine key terms, agendas, and protocols for collaborative research on these issues that adopts a ‘bottom-up’ point of view and which is explicitly grounded in the urban reality of the Global South. We hope to collect and amplify the visions and demands of activists working on urban inequalities and climate justice in the Global South. By doing so, we hope to support the emergence of not just a new pathway for academic work on urban climate justice, but also new relational networks and possibilities for just urban futures.
Follow this project and participate at www.urbanclimatejustice.com