Reparative innovation for urban climate adaptation

by Vanesa Castán Broto, Linda Westman and Ping Huang

26 Oct 2021
Journal of the British Academy
Digital Object Identifier
Number of pages

Abstract: Scholars of climate urbanism have raised the conundrum that action to address the ongoing challenges of climate change in cities have distributional impacts, deepening existing inequalities. This challenge is related in part to the ideas of urban innovation that dominate climate responses. Disruptive innovations are directed towards the rupture of existing systems of knowledge, seeking to create new ways of looking at the problem. The emerging scholarship on climate urbanism suggests that measures to adapt to climate change in urban environments heeding a disruptive narrative have uneven impacts and too often disadvantage the most vulnerable communities. In this article, we ask what it means to look for reparative innovation for climate change adaptation instead. Reparative thought has influenced different debates on climate change adaptation and other issues related to social justice, from dealing with the aftermath of conflicts to engaging in reparative experiences to deal with trauma. Critical theory has also looked into reparation as a means to engage with reparative understandings of cultural objects and heritage. We argue for a focus on reparative innovation to open up alternative innovation frameworks that acknowledge existing material urban histories and engage with the multiple forms of knowledge within the urban experience that support climate adaptation.

Keywords: Urban adaptation, urban transformations, urban infrastructure, disruptive innovation, reparative innovation.

Article posted to the Journal of the British Academy, volume 9, supplementary issue 9 (The Urban Impacts of Climate Change)

Sign up to our email newsletters