Prof Vanesa Castan Broto

Professor of Climate Urbanism

About Vanesa

Vanesa is Professor of Climate Urbanism at the Urban Institute.  Vanesa is the Principal Investigator of the project Low Carbon Action in Ordinary Cities (LO-Act) funded by the European Research Council. She is also the Principal Investigator of the project Community Energy and Sustainable Energy Transitions in East Africa, funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

In 2016 she received the Philip Leverhulme Prize for contributions to Geography. In 2013 she received a United Nations Award for Lighthouse Activities that contribute to fighting climate change with a focus on the urban poor. She is a lead chapter author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and has also contributed chapters for UN-Habitat’s 2016 and 2020 World Cities Reports. She serves as associated editor for the journals Territory, Politics, Governance and Landscape Research.

Research interests

Vanesa’s research focuses on the governance of global environmental change in the urbanization age. She focuses on three interrelated themes: 1) the governance of climate change in urban areas; 2) urbanization and the dynamics of energy transitions; and 3) barriers to the implementation of climate change action.

The first strand of her research focuses on who governs climate change in urban areas and how. For example, Vanesa has mapped the last decade of debates on climate change and city governance in a recent publication in Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews in 2020 (with Linda Westman). Vanesa is currently engaging with ideas that help the bridge between global governance of climate change and place-based action, as discussed in her position paper on messy governmentalities, published in Territory, Politics, Governance in 2019.

The second strand of her research focuses on the dynamics of energy transition. Following her engagement with urban infrastructure as a means to understand climate change policy, she is developing a feminist neo-materialist perspective on the governance of energy transitions. Vanesa has imagined the concept of urban energy landscapes as spatial arrangements of cultural practices and artefacts that reflect the coevolution of socio-economic, technological, and ecological systems. Her book on Urban Energy Landscapes (2019, Cambridge University Press) presents the conceptual foundations of this approach. More recently she has worked with an extended network of colleagues examining urban energy transitions in China, India and East Africa, as shown, for example, in her recent publication in the journal Urban Transformations.

The third area of her research focuses on developing practical ways to activate urban transformations and deliver climate action in practice. She has recently focused on intersectionality as a conceptual lens that can change urban development planning. Such perspective emerge from her engagement with the environmental justice literature in urban environments, as explained in her book Urban Sustainability and Justice (w/Linda Westman, 2019, ZED Books).


Castán Broto, V., Ensor, J., Boyd, E., Allen, C., Seventine, C., & Augusto Macucule, D. (2015). Participatory Planning for Climate Compatible Development in Maputo, Mozambique / Planeamento participativo para o desenvolvimento compatível com o clima em Maputo, Moçambique. Bilingual edition. London: UCL Press. With a foreword by Christiana Figueres.

Bulkeley, H. A., Castán Broto, V., & Edwards, G. A. S. (2014). An Urban Politics of Climate Change: Experimentation and the governing of socio-technical transitions. London: Routledge.

Castán Broto, V. Urban Energy Landscapes (2019, Cambridge University Press)

Castán Broto, V & L Westman. Urban Sustainability and Justice (2019, ZED Books).

Frantzeskaki, N., Castán Broto, V., Coenen, L., Loorbach, D. (2017) Urban sustainability transitions. Studies in Sustainability Transitions. New York, NY: Routledge.

Bouzarovski, S., Pasqualetti, M.J., Castán Broto, V. (2017) The Routledge Research Companion to Energy Geographies. London: Routledge.

Bulkeley, H., Castán Broto, V., Hodson, M., & Marvin, S. (Eds.) (2011). Cities and Low Carbon Transitions. London: Routledge.

Castán Broto, V., Stevens, L., Ackom, E., Tomei, J., Parikh, P., Bisaga, I., To, L.S., Muluguetta,, Y., Kirshner, J. Universal access to sustainable energy in urban areas. Nature Energy, 2(10).

Fuso Nerini F, Tomei J, To LS, Bisaga I, Parikh P, Black M, Borrion, A, Spataru, C, Castán Broto, V, Anandarajah, G, Milligan, B & Mulugetta, Y. (2018) Mapping synergies and trade-offs between energy and the Sustainable Development Goals. Nature Energy. 3:10-5.

Huang, P., Castán Broto, V., and Liu, Y. From “transitions in cities” to “transitions of cities”: The diffusion and adoption of solar hot water systems in urban China. Energy Research and Social Science, forthcoming.

Castán Broto, V. and Baker, L. Spatial Adventures in Energy: An Introduction to the Special Issue. Energy Research and Social Science, forthcoming.

Castán Broto, V. (2017). Energy landscapes and urban trajectories towards sustainability. Energy Policy. 108: 755-764.

Castán Broto, V. (2017) Energy sovereignty and development planning: the case of Maputo, Mozambique. International Development Planning Review. 39 (3), 229-248.

Castán Broto, V. (2017) Green Cities, Infrastructure Landscapes and History. Rachel Carson Center Perspectives.  Forthcoming.

Castán Broto, V. (2017). Urban Governance and the Politics of Climate Change. World Development. 93: 1-15.

Caprotti, F., Cowley, R., Datta, A., Castán Broto, V., Gao, E., Georgeson, L., Herrick, C., Odendaal, N. and Joss, S. (2017) The New Urban Agenda: key opportunities and challenges for policy and practice. Urban Research & Practice. 10(3): 367-378.

Castán Broto, V. (2016). Natural Gas and Climate Finance. Climate Policy. 18(2): 170-183.

Guibrunet, L., Sanzana Calvet, M., & Castán Broto, V. (2016). Flows, system boundaries and the politics of urban metabolism: waste management in Mexico City and Santiago de Chile. Geoforum 85: 353-367.

Castán Broto, V., & Westman, L. (2016). Just Sustainabilities and Local Action: Evidence from 400 Flagship Initiatives. Local Environment: the international journal of justice and sustainability, 22 (5), 635-650.

Trencher, G., Castán Broto, V., Takagi, T., Sprigings, Z., Nishida, Y., & Yarime, M. (2016). Innovative policy practices to advance building energy efficiency and retrofitting: Approaches, impacts and challenges in ten C40 cities. Environmental Science and Policy. 66, 353-365.

Castán Broto, V., & Dewberry, E. (2016). Economic crisis and social learning for the provision of public services in two Spanish municipalities. Journal of Cleaner Production112, 3018-3027.

Castán Broto, V. (2016). Innovation Territories and Energy Transitions: Energy, Water and Modernity in Spain, 1939–1975. Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning18(5), 712-729.

Castán Broto, V. (2015). Contradiction, intervention and urban low carbon transitions. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. 33, 430-476.

Sanzana Calvet, M., & Castán Broto, V. (2015). Neoliberal Shock, Infrastructure Disruption, and Restructuring in Chile. Critical Planning22, 11-34.

Walsh, C. L., Glendinning, S., Castán Broto, V., Dewberry, E., & Powell, M. (2015). Are wildcard events on infrastructure systems opportunities for transformational change? Futures67, 1-10.

Castán Broto, V., Macucule, D., Boyd, E., Ensor, J., & Allen, C. (2015). Building Collaborative Partnerships for Climate Change Action in Maputo, Mozambique. Environment and Planning A: international journal of urban and regional research. 47, 571-587.