Participatory Climate Adaptation and Energy Poverty at the RGS conference 2021

Two presentations given at the Annual Conference of the Royal Geographical Society 2021 on participatory climate adaptation planning and the socio-political determinants of energy poverty in Europe.

  • On the 31st of August Margherita Nocentini presented our work titled “Just climate adaptation planning: a role for participation” during the session Beyond environmental inequalities: expanding urban environmental justice research.

Just climate adaptation planning: a role for participation

Margherita Gori Nocentini, Chiara Certomà

The presentation discusses the links between climate adaptation planning in the urban context, participation practices, and justice. Our exploration starts from the hypothesis that climate adaptation planning is not “neutral” in terms of socio-environmental justice. Since climate change is becoming an increasing concern for governments and civil society, many cities have started planning and implementing strategies and dedicated plans to prevent or mitigate its negative effects, and build resilience in local communities. These plans include many different types of interventions, ranging from large-scale infrastructure projects, which can heavily modify urban morphologies, to strengthening policies addressed to specific vulnerable groups, such as social services for the elderly. Climate adaption plans, therefore, have potentially wide-reaching effects on the social, economic and cultural aspects of urban life. Existing research has only partially explored the “dark side” of climate adaption policies (see Anguelovski et al. 2016, Thomas and Warner 2019) and we seek to contribute to this line of research by arguing for a greater consideration of these policies from a justice point of view. Accordingly, our investigation focuses on the justice aspects of climate adaptation planning, and specifically on the potential of participatory instruments to address justice concerns. We conducted an in-depth analysis of climate adaptation planning in three Italian cities (Ancona, Bologna, and Rome) to understand how public participation was functionally integrated in the overall planning processes, as well as how justice concerns regarding the potentially differentiated impacts of climate change in local communities were specifically addressed. Our results suggest that participation was adopted as a key element of the planning process in all cases, though with significant differences as to the level of local communities’ involvement – particularly the more vulnerable residents. As a tentative conclusion, we suggest that these differences result from different conceptions of adaptation and urban resilience, which can vary between more “backward” or “forward-looking” approaches (Pelling 2011). In consideration of the need to actively engage all social groups in climate adaptation planning, we argue in favor of a forward-looking approach as a potential avenue to address structural social vulnerabilities, and therefore to implement more justice-sensitive adaptation policies.

  • On the 3rd of September I am presenting my work with Filippo Corsini and Marco Guerrazzi titled “Energy Poverty is not only a Matter of Income and Inequality.The Role of Socio-Political Factors for Alleviating Energy Needs in European Countries” during the session Energy Geographies: Poverty, Vulnerabilities & Insecurities.

Energy Poverty is not only a Matter of Income and Inequality.The Role of Socio-Political Factors for Alleviating Energy Needs in European Countries

Chiara Certomà, Filippo Corsini, Marco Guerrazzi

An accurate understanding of how to progress in the delivery of the right to energy services for all and alleviating Energy Poverty (EP) is crucial in European countries to progress toward a just and sustainable energy system. EP has been principally associated with income poverty and accordingly addressed. However, recent research suggested (still not proved) that sociopolitical contextual factors might bear a relationship with EP and play a role in the way different Countries’ tackle it. To better understand the phenomenon, we adopted the WB Worldwide Governance Indicators as the reference set of socio-political factors underlying Energy Poverty and we evaluate their relations, with a panel data regression model, with the European Energy Poverty Index (EEPI) index. Moreover, in order to explore in-depth, the European countries efforts alleviating energy poverty, we discuss the results of the statistical analysis with pieces of evidence from the National Energy and Climate Plans (NECPs) elaborated in 2019 upon the European Commission’s request. Results show the correlation between EU Countries’ capacity to mitigate EP and the quality of their democratic institutions and regulatory processes is significantly positive. Moreover, they also highlight potential difficulties of contrasting EP and creating energy justice conditions in the imminent liberalised European energy market. Conclusions present some recommendations on the importance to understand and intervene on socio-political factors and possible future research pathways to deepen the understanding of the phenomenon.

Complete programme for the session is available here.

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