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Social vulnerability assessments for social justice and equity in climate adaptation plans

Cattino, Massimo (2020) Social vulnerability assessments for social justice and equity in climate adaptation plans.

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Abstract:Climate adaptation planning has attracted more and more attention over the last few years in cities all around the world as a strategy to deal with the increasing threat of climate change. Climate change has greater impacts on people with high social vulnerability. However, climate adaptation plans rarely consider social vulnerability, potentially leading climate adaptive interventions to cases of maladaptation, affecting already vulnerable portions of citizens. This research had the objective of ensuring social justice and equity in climate adaptation through the systematic implementation of social vulnerability assessments. Medellin, Colombia, has been selected as the study area for the research. The city is known world-wide for being a hub of urban innovation, and in this context measures to increase resilience to climate-related hazards have been implemented as well. The study has been tackled with a combination of both quantitative and qualitative methods. A quantitative social vulnerability assessment has been carried out through the construction of a Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). The procedure has been repeated for two years, 2013 and 2017, in order to evaluate the variations over space and time of social vulnerability in Medellin. The qualitative part of the research, tackled analysing interviews collected during a fieldwork and secondary data, had the focus on the process and the output of climate adaptation planning, namely participation processes and climate adaptation plans, in order to understand their intrinsic social justice and equity. Finally, results obtained from both the quantitative and the qualitative approaches have been triangulated to judge the outcome of the implemented climate adaptive interventions in Medellin. Results show minimal variations in social vulnerability over the period 2013-2017. The designed climate adaptation plans and climate adaptive interventions have raised many questions in terms of equity and social justice of process, output, and outcome of climate adaptation planning. Citizens were included in the decision-making processes, but not really considered. Serious efforts by Medellin’s municipality in regards to climate adaptation are lacking. The only intervention stated to be (also) for climate adaptation is the Green Belt, a project ideated for the first time in 1950, when climate change was far from being a recognised global issue. The Green Belt project has been only partially completed, has brought debatable and inequitable benefits, and has received mostly popular disapproval by the communities living in the interested areas. Low-income residents have been discriminatorily relocated, have lost their social infrastructure and have “sacrificed as collateral damages” for the city’s economic aspirations. In the area where the project has been implemented, although the SoVI results show minor variations in social vulnerability, over the period 2013-2017 citizens’ political trust towards the institutions significantly decreased. The combination of qualitative and quantitative results failed in attributing variations of social vulnerability to the implementation of the Green Belt project. However, this combined approach showed a great potential in communicating the urgency of just and equitable climate adaptation actions.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:ITC: Faculty of Geo-information Science and Earth Observation
Subject:38 earth sciences
Programme:Spatial Engineering MSc (60962)
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