|| Ongoing and future anthropogenic climate change, and our responses to it, could potentially magnify inequities worldwide and much of this will occur within the built environment. For instance, it is expected that low-income communities, individuals that suffer from chronic diseases or social isolation, and other vulnerable populations will be disproportionately affected by climate impacts due to their limited ability to adapt to a warming climate.
Communities, and the people in them, are also likely to face differential implications of climate actions – such as building adaptation or mitigation infrastructure – due to their locations, livelihoods, or socio-economic resources. Some communities may need to abandon their homes and settlements if they become uninhabitable, while others may experience changes due to shifting ideas of desirable neighbourhoods, new rules for building codes or insurance policies, increased stress / hardship, or unintended consequences of other climate actions. How will different people and communities experience these shifts? How could efforts be designed to avoid deepening or actively reduce pre-existing inequalities in wellbeing? What policies and strategies are needed for the evaluating specific interventions at different scales (building, neighbourhood, city, building stock) and how do these interact collectively?
The global community is committed to achieving climate equity as a core requirement. Insufficient capacity for climate change adaptation and unequal distribution of resources will negatively affect the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals promoting the wellbeing of people in developing countries and low-income communities within wealthy countries. Challenging multi-level inequities both internationally and nationally is, therefore, at the heart of climate change mitigation, adaptation and human development goals.
Moreover, as mitigation action (e.g. "green" building & energy retrofits) is both needed to limit climate impacts and could itself have implications for equity at all scales, mitigation actions must also be examined through an equity lens.
Whilst there has been an increasing recognition of the role the building sector will play in the transition towards a low carbon economy, less attention has been paid to the relationship between buildings and urban design in the context of climate justice. It is widely recognised that the definition, measurement and distribution of climate related burdens are of fundamental importance for distributive justice in climate policy and adaptation practice. Moreover, efforts to design and change the built environment necessarily raise questions about procedural justice. As the built environment is at the heart of the lives of people and communities and is central to climate adaptation and mitigation, a deeper understanding of the justice implications of efforts to change or maintain the built environment in the context of climate change is essential.
Despite the obvious intersection between the built environment and issues of climate justice, these issues are often addressed separately. For example, despite the increasing concerns about air pollution and overheating in summer, such issues are rarely framed as energy or energy poverty issues. In addition, the majority of studies aiming to quantify the impact of climate change on energy use, comfort, health and wellbeing do so at the building stock level without incorporating social aspects that may magnify risks for health and wellbeing. Similarly, justice implications of decision-making about the planning, design, construction, operation and alteration of built environment in the context of climate change could occur at all stages of the life cycle. For example, this includes the labour conditions for working under extreme or stressful conditions during the construction / renovation process.
Meanwhile, the recent rise of the political economy of ‘wellness’ and the wellbeing agenda among building designers and urban planners in affluent countries raises new questions about how health and wellbeing are linked with entitlements of wealth, social status and privilege. However, this raises further questions about how these (and other) concerns apply to people in less affluent areas within developed countries and the global south. The continued growth of informal settlements raises multiple questions about adaptation and mitigation options and their justice ramifications for vulnerable or poor communities.
This Special Issue will specifically explore the role our built environment plays in the climate change and inequity nexus. It seeks to examine the full implications of the built environment on social inequities and human development in the context of climate change: how might climate change or climate policies exacerbate these problems, what the scale of this is likely to be, and what policies, strategy solutions, resources and capabilities may be required to manage these concerns within and between countries.