Embedding social justice into sustainable urban planning

Dr Bridget Pratt1

1Australian Catholic University, Australia

Evidence is growing globally that cities’ climate change plans typically aren’t developed through inclusive processes and/or exacerbate health and social inequities, especially for historically marginalised groups. This raises the ethical question: how can social justice and equity be better embedded into urban planning for climate change? This paper gathers and analyses literature assessing the inclusivity of urban climate change planning and literature assessing the equity impacts of urban climate change planning. It demonstrates that urban planning for climate change is generating negative impacts across six dimensions of social justice via four main pathways: underlying neoliberalism, unequal treatment, green gentrification, and exclusion from decision-making. Suggestions are made for how urban planners can embed consideration of these pathways into their reflective planning practice to avoid reinforcing or widening inequities. The paper further calls for urban planners to engage in “fearless speech” when confronted with the neoliberal pathway and for the field to establish conditions where “fearless speech” is supported. The ethical responsibilities of different actors to generate such conditions is discussed.


Bridget Pratt is a senior lecturer at the Queensland Bioethics Centre at Australian Catholic University. Her research interests include the ethics of global health research and health systems research, with a focus on social and global justice.

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