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Toward the Next Mode of Practice for Climate Urbanism

Understanding and Preventing Greening-Induced Displacement

James J.T. Connolly, Isabelle Anguelovski, and Emilia Oscilowicz

October 2023, English

The contemporary practice of green climate urbanism faces an acute challenge. Even as the capacity grows in cities to implement increased green climate mitigation and adaptation measures, so does the extent to which such measures become integrated with processes that can threaten the ability of residents to remain in their home neighborhoods. As a result of this entanglement, leading voices within communities that have long been advocates of urban greening are questioning their alliance and complicating the politics of implementation. In order to think toward the next mode of practice for green climate urbanism with this rising conflict in mind, this report lays out the state of research on the socio-spatial dynamics that characterize and drive “green gentrification,” and examines what those dynamics mean for climate action in cities.

After initially setting the context for understanding urban greening within climate action, we show why some authors argue that the urban greening-gentrification relationship is intensifying through time, even though this relationship is uneven, nuanced, and contingent upon contextual factors. We further highlight the perverse outcomes that the greening-gentrification relationship portends for climate planning. It points toward increasing inequities in the distribution of climate risk reduction benefits from greening, despite programs with the opposite intention. We build our analysis on a variety of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-method studies at the city-wide and neighborhood levels, mostly in the United States.

We also identify what the greening and gentrification relationship means in terms of displacement, which particularly impacts the efficacy of place-based climate actions seeking to reduce risk for a given population based on the assumption that the population will remain. Our focus is on the diversity of exclusion and types of displacement that green gentrification potentially signals, highlighting those effects that most impact historically vulnerable groups in the city – particularly those already experiencing a legacy of unequal urban development and segregation. We further suggest a new form of practice for green climate urbanism that internalizes the goal of greening without displacement by (1) avoiding opportunistic implementation of greening based on onedimensional goals through transversal governance that bridges diverse agencies and community voices; (2) incorporating a wide view of benefits and disbenefits that accounts for social equity implications; and (3) serving as a lever for change from the status quo in areas receiving green climate interventions.


Adaptation, Climate Mitigation, Development, Inequality, Land Use, Sustainable Development