Professor Vanesa Castan Broto discusses the questions at the core of new research programme “Low Carbon Action in Ordinary Cities”

Given the current rates of urban growth, urbanisation has become a transformative force changing societies and our relationships with the natural environment. The latest IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C- published in October 2018- states that an urban transformation is needed for a coordinated, sustainable response to climate change. The report proposes focusing our efforts on climate resilience pathways of urban transformations.

However, central to such ideas of urban transformation is the need to consider how questions of equity and justice are inherent to those practices. Questions of equity and justice are particularly important for dwellers living in informal settlements or sub-serviced areas. Given the current rates of urban growth cities lacking infrastructure capacity, we are likely to see a rapid increase of population depending on sub-standard urban services.

There are trade-offs between providing access to urban services to a growing urban population and reducing carbon emissions. However, it is increasingly apparent that low carbon technologies offer opportunities for services where before there were none. Deep mitigation pathways are intrinsically linked to the provision of services for all urban dwellers.

These questions are at the core of a new research programme at the Urban Institute called “Low Carbon Action in Ordinary Cities,” which started on the 1st February 2019. The project focuses on lesser-known small and medium-sized cities in rapidly growing urban areas in West and East Africa, South Asia, and South East Asia. Professor Vanesa Castán Broto leads the project, which it is funded thanks to a European Research Council Starting Grant. The project will last five years during which it will investigate the global narratives of climate politics in urban areas, the mobility of low carbon policies across cities and regions, and the potential for alternative forms of innovation in unexpected ways of infrastructure delivery.