Urban climate politics and activism amidst COVID-19: the case of Barcelona

Authors: Mar Satorras*, Universitat Oberta De Catalunya, Isabel Ruiz-Mallen*, Universitat Oberta De Catalunya, Hug March*, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya
Topics: Urban Geography, Hazards and Vulnerability, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: climate change governance, climate activism, COVID-19, resilience planning, urban politics
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 7
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The interlinkages between the ongoing health, socio-economic and environmental crises have started to be acknowledged and debated particularly in the context of cities. However, there is still little evidence on how the COVID-19 crisis is shaping political and social responses to climate change on the ground. This study aims to shed light on how the (responses to this) pandemic influence urban climate politics and activism by capturing the views of urban practitioners, policy-makers and community-based organizations engaged in climate resilience. Specifically, by focusing on the case of Barcelona (Spain), where climate emergency measures rank high in the political agenda, and carrying out interviews with public officials and grassroots movements, we address the following questions: 1) to what extent and how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting urban climate emergency policies?; 2) how are the COVID-19 impacts on the actions of community-based organizations towards the climate emergency? and 3) which opportunities and risks to further deal with the climate emergency are perceived? Our results show a slowdown in public and grassroots climate action and an accelerated penetration of health issues into climate emergency discourses. While risks such as decreasing public expenditure to implement the climate emergency declaration or downgrading participatory climate governance are acknowledged by public managers, opportunities such as the increased value attributed to green spaces are also highlighted by our informants. We conclude by proposing a categorization of COVID-19 short-term impacts on climate emergency action that could be used to evaluate these effects in other cities.

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