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Exploring the Intersection of Justice and Sustainability in Urban Visions

Updated: Oct 11, 2023

Source: Urban Visions, by Matthias Ripp (CC BY 2.0).

Urban environments play a crucial role in addressing the pressing challenges of social justice and sustainability. The concept of just transition has evolved in recent years, transforming from a reactive project to a proactive endeavor that aims to reduce social inequalities and environmental degradation. In this context, the quest for a just and sustainable city becomes paramount. However, the question of what such a city should look like remains largely unexplored. In this blog post, we give an overview of the first COGITO's report which delves into this issue.

Our first report, "Reconciling the Just and Sustainable City in the Era of Just Transition: A Review of Urban Vision," offers an analysis of influential texts on just cities and sustainable city visions. On the one hand, it explores the evolution of just city visions, ranging from the the radical political economy critique, to the cultural turn, the communicative turn and the "Just City" era. Drawing on the frameworks of environmental, energy and climate justice, we show how they emphasize specific dimensions of justice, including recognition, procedural justice, and distributive justice. Leading thinkers in this field, such as Susan Fainstein, John Friedmann, Iris Marion Young, and Leonie Sandercock, have contributed influential ideas to shape these visions.

On the other hand, sustainable city visions focus on achieving ecological and social sustainability. The report highlights various sustainable city concepts, such as the Sustainable City, Green City, Eco-City, Low Carbon and Carbon Neutral City, Smart City, Circular City, and Resilient City. Each concept brings its unique approach to sustainability, combining in different ways objectives related to environmental conservation, economic development, and social justice.

The report uncovers the importance of bridging sustainability and justice in urban visions. While just city visions center social justice, sustainability is not typically at the forefront. Conversely, sustainable city visions often neglect social justice concerns, prioritizing environmental and economic objectives.

By analyzing the intersection between just city and sustainable city visions, the report highlights the need for a holistic approach that considers both dimensions. A just and sustainable city should encompass social justice principles, such as equity, participation, and recognition, along with efforts towards environmental sustainability.

The findings of this report have significant implications for urban planners, policymakers, and stakeholders involved in shaping the future of cities. It calls for a shift towards integrated approaches that harmonize social justice and sustainability objectives in the making of cities, paving the way for transitions to just and sustainable cities.

Stay tuned for other reports and publications!

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