29 January 2021

ICLEI Europe takes steps forward in its commitment to justice

In August 2020, in the midst of a summer which saw a number of social groups, people, and organisations more closely considering and working to tackle racism, ICLEI Europe made our views clear: racial justice is part of climate justice. The dimensions of (in)justice and (in)equality – which include racism, as well as a number of other facets, such as socio-economic justice, environmental justice, and much more – are incontrovertibly linked to climate change and sustainability, and must be treated as such. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), for example, reports that, “Social justice and equity are core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways that aim to limit global warming to 1.5°C as they address challenges and inevitable trade-offs, widen opportunities, and ensure that options, visions, and values are deliberated […] without making the poor and disadvantaged worse off.”

ICLEI Europe staff have continued to consider the role of justice in our work. This has spanned political advocacy, amplifying the work of our Member Cities, concrete project work, and contributions to research on justice in the context of urban sustainability.

Most notably, justice is at the heart of the Mannheim Message, a local response to the European Green Deal, which we co-created with our Member Cities, and presented at the Mannheim2020 conference in October 2020. The Mannheim Message, which has been endorsed by over 40 cities, 50 organisations, and 119 individuals, includes calls for cooperation, solidarity and inclusion, and for the re-orientation of societies and local governance structures towards the common good. The document also calls for policy changes that shift taxation from labour to natural resource use and pollution, and that guarantee living incomes, including living wages and basic income schemes. By presenting our call directly to the European Commission at the Mannheim2020 conference, and receiving their public support for the Message, we pushed governments from the local to the international levels to publicly and seriously pursue these policy changes in order to forge more just cities. The Mannheim Message is open for endorsement here.

In addition to this political advocacy, we are also contributing to concrete projects and publications to assist cities in taking justice into account throughout their work.

ICLEI Europe is part of a reference group for a thematic paper titled, ‘The relevance of the Right to the City to tackle climate change, global warming and climate justice’. This work is part of the Global Platform for the Right to the City, an initiative rooted in the assertion that all urban inhabitants (present and future) have the right to use, govern and enjoy just, inclusive, safe and sustainable cities. Our experts will also contribute to a free online course called ‘Decoding the Right to the City’ – which will run through February and March 2021 – that explores this concept of the ‘right to the city’ in relation to social struggles, practices, mobilisation, and to international political agendas.

ICLEI Europe is coordinating the UrbanA project, which synthesises knowledge for sustainable and just cities, and translates this knowledge into action, influencing policies in favour of ensuring sustainable and just cities. The project convenes co-creation spaces called ‘arenas’ for participants dedicated to making cities more just, and has produced research that covers topics like drivers of injustice in urban sustainability, justice challenges in urban sustainability, and insights on different approaches to sustainable just cities.

ICLEI Europe is also a partner in the Horizon2020 UPLIFT project, which aims to use participatory research to understand how individuals experience and adapt to inequalities in Europe. Through the project, ICLEI will work with communities in four locations to co-design a policy tool aimed at addressing and reducing inequality and socio-economic divisions. The project will continue to explore these concepts for the next two years; however, initial outputs have already been produced including an Atlas of Inequalities in Europe, and a framework study on socio-economic inequalities in Europe; cities can apply and build on both of these publications as they work to address local injustice.

ICLEI is committed to regularly taking stock of our progress to ensure that the steps we have committed to are seen through, and that our ambition with respect to pushing for justice in the field of urban sustainability continues to increase. An internal Justice Working Group convenes regularly to discuss how to mainstream justice throughout our operations, and to identify areas where we need to improve, learn more, and take action. This group has, most recently, drawn on academic research to define justice, and to use this context to refine and add to our concrete steps for continuing to strengthen the ways that we consider and approach justice throughout our work and internal operations.

We will continue to reflect on and publicly catalogue our progress. For more information, stay tuned to our channels, including our Twitter feed, news page, and newsletter.