The decarbonisation debate: exploring climate action for equitable cities

IIED Debates

This event explored opportunities for urban climate change mitigation policies to respond to poverty and support social justice.

Last updated 30 June 2024
Houses surrounded by trees and greenery.

An urban forest in Vila Isabel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Ricardo Marques, via Flickr, CC BY 2.0 DEED)

London Climate Action Week 2024

The climate emergency disproportionately affects the one billion people living in low-income and informal urban settlements. Despite contributing least to the climate crisis, their lives and livelihoods are increasingly threatened by climate impacts such as flooding, rising sea levels, extreme heat and drought.

To protect those most at risk on our warming and increasingly urban planet, urban policy, planning and practice must provide low-carbon, resilient housing and basic services, particularly for low-income populations.

In the efforts to link climate action and social justice in cities, little attention has been paid to how cities could accelerate decarbonisation. Even less attention has been paid to how such decarbonisation processes might be accelerated to advance social justice, reduce poverty and respond to basic needs.

This London Climate Action Week event explored opportunities for climate change mitigation policies and practices to respond to poverty and support social justice in cities and the agendas of urban social movements.

Drawing on examples shared in the new issue of the 'Environment and Urbanization' journal, the speakers debated the role of decarbonisation in the efforts to achieve urban social justice and climate-resilient development. What makes low-income and informal communities legitimate sites for decarbonisation? How can low-carbon infrastructural initiatives align with adaptation priorities? And how would decarbonisation efforts accelerate social justice in low- and middle-income cities?

About the speakers

Sonia Dias is the global waste specialist at WIEGO, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing.

Michael Roll is a sociologist and senior researcher at the German Institute of Development and Sustainability (IDOS) and a member of the Transformative Urban Coalitions (TUC) project team in Bonn, Germany.

Nura Ali is a PhD researcher at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit at University College London (UCL), and currently associate lecturer for the 'Health, social justice and the city' module, for the MSc health and urban development at UCL. Her research looks at the hydro-social production of health, and how water spaces affect health outcomes.

Jorgelina Hardoy, geographer, coordinator and senior researcher at IIED – América Latina, in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Anna Walnycki, IIED principal researcher, Human Settlements research group (moderator)

Tucker Landesman, senior researcher, IIED's Human Settlements research group (moderator)

Event coverage

You can watch a recording of the event below or on IIED's YouTube channel, where individual links to the start of each speaker's contribution are also provided.

About IIED Debates

This event was part of the IIED Debates series. Through the convening of expert speakers and external stakeholders, IIED brings together an international community to discuss critical issues.

IIED Debates encompass both physical and digital events, including critical themes, breakfast debriefs and webinars. These events are public and are hosted regularly throughout the year online and when possible in our London and Edinburgh offices.

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