Nature-Based Solutions in the City

Photo by Michael Glass on Unsplash.

This project will explore nature-based solutions (NBS) to urban climate change adaptation through the lens of environmental justice (EJ), questioning whether NBS and the governance strategies they are embedded in can produce environmentally just outcomes in the city.

The NBS concept is a relatively new development, gaining traction in Europe as part of the EU’s vision for socially-inclusive green growth. Closely related to ecosystem services and green and blue infrastructure, the NBS concept is still evolving but is generally distinguished by two key ideas: respecting the limits of natural ecosystems and, in response, modelling solutions on solutions in natural ecosystems; and simultaneously addressing the environmental, social, economic and public health nexus of complex problems.

While some policymakers and practitioners are designing urban NBS with environmental justice in mind, to date, there has not been a comprehensive study of NBS from an EJ perspective. I plan to analyse NBS from three theoretical viewpoints: Schlosberg’s (2007) comprehensive and versatile framework, which brings together recognition-based, procedural and distributive notions of justice; Agyeman’s (2003) just sustainabilities paradigm, which places equity and justice for present and future generations at the centre of sustainable development, and may be useful for examining how urban NBS fit into the EU’s vision for green growth; and Pellow’s (2017) critical environmental justice theory, which focuses on intersecting, deeply embedded structural inequalities, and provides an entry point for engaging with the literature from urban political ecology.

This Honours thesis project is being led by Zoe Stojanovic-Hill, a 2020 Honours Research Fellow with the Sydney Environment Institute. A comparative case study analysis will be conducted of the demonstration projects within NATURVATION, a NBS project led Harriet Bulkeley, Professor in the Department of Geography at Durham University, UK and other initiatives funded under the EU’s Horizon 2020 scheme.