Making socially just adaptation a reality – from concepts to policy and practice

11:15 Tuesday 28 May


Room S7


Aleksandra Kazmierczak (Denmark) 1; Katharine Knox (United Kingdom) 2; Diana Reckien (Netherlands) 3; Kit England (United Kingdom) 4

1 - European Environment Agency; 2 - Katharine Knox Consulting; 3 - University of Twente; 4 - Climate Ready Clyde

Climate change is recognised as a socio-economic as well as environmental problem, due to its wide-ranging impacts. However, the social justice implications of climate change impacts, adaptation planning and implementation have only recently begun to be considered. They include:

  • Differential social vulnerability of nations and communities to climate impacts;
  • The fairness and equity of adaptation responses to climate change in practice;
  • The adequacy of climate adaptation and wider socio-economic policies in addressing climate injustice when setting the framework for action.

Climate impacts are not evenly distributed across European society. More vulnerable groups, including people on the lowest incomes, who generally contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions, tend to be among the most affected. The elderly and those in poor health can be worst affected by heatwaves. Those on low incomes are less likely to have flood insurance and have fewer resources to deal with the impacts of flooding. How do we ensure recognition of social vulnerability in policy and practice, and that the uneven impacts of climate change are addressed to ensure fair, just adaptation?

In practice, issues of procedural and distributional justice associated with implementing adaptation options are only starting to emerge. Purposeful socially-just adaptation actions are rare. At local level, adaptation is usually a responsibility of local authority environmental departments, often disconnected from disaster risk reduction. Collaboration with other departments, including health and social care, and other sectors, from emergency services to the voluntary and community sector, is needed. How can practitioners address social justice in adaptation planning and implementation?

In EU and national policy, the need to protect vulnerable people is recognised. However, operationalising this policy is a different matter. How do recent European policy developments, e.g. the EU Adaptation Strategy Evaluation and the Urban Agenda for the EU address social justice in adaptation? How are vulnerable groups treated in the National Adaptation Strategies of EU countries? How do we support greater inclusion of social justice in adaptation policy frameworks across all governance levels?

This session aims to provide varied perspectives covering policy, research and practice on social justice in climate change adaptation responses. Presentations will be followed by discussion to consider:

  • How can we make social justice a reality in climate change adaptation?
  • What are the drivers and barriers to achieving this in practice?
  • How can we better work together across research, policy and practice to address this?

Target audience

Policymakers at different levels (international, national, regional, local); researchers; practitioners (local government and other sectors) working on adaptation. They will benefit from hearing the perspectives of the other communities and sharing successful examples of collaboration as well as contributing to thinking on how to develop more socially just responses.

Proposed format for the session

The session will include 5 minutes of introduction/explanation of the session from the chair to pose the question how can we make social justice a reality in climate change adaptation?

The session will then involve presentations from 4 speakers, 15 minutes each, to discuss perspectives from research, policy and practice on this agenda.

This will be followed by 40 minutes of facilitated discussion involving the audience: 20 minutes to discuss the drivers and barriers to making socially just adaptation a reality, and 20 minutes to identify opportunities for improving policy, practice and research responses, considering collaboration. We intend to invite brief interventions from Ôguest speakers’ (to be identified closer to the event) from these three different communities to help initiate discussion based on further experience of the agenda. Contributing Authors abstracts

1. Katharine Knox (chair), Katharine Knox Consulting

As former programme manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Katharine led the organisation’s research on climate justice for 8 years. Drawing on an evidence base of over 20 publications, covering the social justice implications of climate change in the UK, including research on social vulnerability to different climate hazards, and responses in different sectors (from health and social care to local authority spatial planning) as well as policy questions (such as the equity of national flood investment) Katharine will introduce key concepts in climate justice and discuss learning from research in the UK.

The presentation will draw on the key messages from this work, synthesised by Katharine in a chapter for the forthcoming Routledge Handbook of Climate Justice (due for publication in 2018). She will share insights from collaborations involving research, policy and practitioner communities. This will include the experience of setting up and running the Climate Just website as a tool supporting the science-practice interface on socially just responses to climate change at local level. Katharine will also discuss contributing evidence on climate justice to the latest UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Evidence Report for the Committee on Climate Change, a statutory body advising UK government on adaptation policy.

2. Aleksandra Kazmierczak, European Environment Agency

As an expert in urban and social aspects of climate change adaptation at the European Environment Agency (EEA), Aleksandra has recently coordinated two publications on social justice in climate change adaptation and environmental policy: ‘Social vulnerability to climate change in European cities – state of play in policy and practice’ (Technical paper of the European Topic Centre on Climate Change impacts, vulnerability and Adaptation ) and EEA report ÔUnequal impacts and unequal exposure: social vulnerability to air pollution, noise and extreme temperatures’ (publication in January 2019).

Based on these publications and other EEA activities, Aleksandra will present the coverage of social justice and social vulnerability in European adaptation and environmental policy and discuss its implications for actions at lower governance levels. She will also cover the treatment of social justice in national adaptation strategies, and how the social aspects of climate change adaptation are being monitored by countries. Finally, Aleksandra will provide an overview of Climate-ADAPT case studies and the emerging picture from them of social justice in adaptation at the local level.

3. Diana Reckien, University of Twente

As coordinating chapter lead author, Diana has led the assessment of ‘Equity and Environmental Justice and Urban Climate Change’ for the ‘Second Assessment Report of Climate Change in Cities’ (ARC3.2, Eds: Rosenzweig, Solecki, et al.; Cambridge University Press). Together with 30 researchers across Europe, Diana has also been regularly reviewing the state of local climate planning and its justice implications in the EU-28 since 2013. This has resulted in a comprehensive database of local climate plans (LCPs) and their content across 885 European Urban Audit Core Cities, comprising:

  1. the availability of local climate plans (mitigation and adaptation);
  2. the drivers and barriers of adaptation LCPs;
  3. the content of LCPs in terms of planned adaptation actions, including procedural and distributional justice considerations; and
  4. applied evaluation measures and procedures, including consideration of the impact of adaptation on vulnerable groups.

The most recent update, i.e. analysis of the content of adaptation LCPs undertaken in the first half of 2019, will enable Diana to present the current justice considerations in local adaptation planning across the EU. Diana will report insights and implications of these assessments, summarising best practice solutions of how to increase justice considerations in local climate planning.

4. Kit England, Climate Ready Clyde

As manager of the Climate Ready Clyde initiative in the Glasgow City Region in Scotland, Kit has been a leader in developing adaptation responses that incorporate social justice in practice. Kit has worked in urban adaptation at the municipal level for over 10 years, specialising in adaptation financing and domestic climate justice. He has also advised NGOs and think-tanks and governments on climate justice, and chaired the adaptation group of Core Cities – the UK’s network of large cities. He is also on the UK’s committee for the development of ISO standards for adaptation.

Domestic climate justice is an emerging priority in Scotland, and Kit has been piloting practical methods to deliver procedural and distributive justice in adaptation planning. Kit will set out Scotland’s adaptation framework, before outlining how he has been working to embed social justice in the development of Glasgow City Region’s adaptation strategy and action plan. This work includes evidence development, risk assessment, and process design to develop the City Region’s adaptation strategy and action plan, as well as wider capacity building activity. Kit will reflect on this experience, including strengths and challenges, offering insights and lessons for strengthening frameworks and delivery.

Is this a business/service oriented session? No