Just transition in the post-pandemic city

Oscar Berglund, Jess Britton, Sophia Hatzisavvidou, Celia Robbins, David Shackleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (SciVal)


This paper asks how the pandemic has affected climate governance, with a specific focus on just transition in cities. We respond to Westman and Castán Broto’s (2021) challenge that three assumptions are frequently reproduced in the urban climate governance literature and ask: (1) Are social justice and environmental sustainability separated? (2) Does a sectoral perspective on cities constrain conceptions of climate justice? and (3) Is there action rather than just plans? We address these questions by studying three cities in the South West of England (Bristol, Bath, and Exeter) that have expressed aspirations for rapid and just transition to net zero. There are promising signs of climate action, although the pandemic slowed it down somewhat. Climate justice is not sufficiently embedded in plans or actions. Commitment to just transition is present but partial and often unspecified. Social justice and ecological sustainability are too often treated as separate goals, more likely to come into conflict with each other, than addressed jointly. Too much climate work in cities takes place in silos around energy and transport but separate from other sectors. There is a notable failure to engage with civil society for a just transition. We conclude that for cities to truly implement a just transition, better engagement with grassroots actors from across sectors and parts of society is necessary. The development of tools which support cities to analyse the complex interplay of distributional, recognitional, participatory and restorative aspects of justice could be an important part of delivering this change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)753-767
Number of pages15
JournalLocal Environment
Issue number6
Early online date9 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

This work was supported by British Academy; Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, University of Bristol; GW4; and University of Bath


  • climate justice
  • green recovery
  • just transitions
  • pandemic
  • Urban climate governance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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