Governing intersectional climate justice: Tactics and lessons from Barcelona

Ana Terra Amorim‐maia, Isabelle Anguelovski, Eric Chu, James Connolly

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Cities and local governments are important actors in the global governance of climate change; however, the specific governance principles and arrangements that enable urban climate plans and policies to realize commitments to social equity and justice remain largely unexplored. This article uses the City of Barcelona, Spain, as a critical case study of emerging “intersectional climate justice” practice, where plans to build resilience to climate change are pursued in conjunction with efforts to tackle structural inequalities in accessing the built environment, health services, energy, housing, and transportation experienced by frontline communities. The study illustrates how Barcelona and its community partners do this through four different categories of governance and decision-making tactics, which include: (1) experimenting with disruptive planning strategies; (2) working transversally across agencies and actors to institutionalize climate justice over time; (3) putting care at the center of urban planning; and (4) mobilizing place-based approaches to tackle intersecting vulnerabilities of frontline residents. These tactics seek to redistribute the benefits of climate-resilient infrastructures more fairly and to enhance participatory processes more meaningfully. Finally, we assess the limitations and challenges of mobilizing these tactics in everyday urban politics. Barcelona's experience contributes to research on climate governance by challenging the notion of distinct waves of governance and revealing concurrent dimensions of climate urbanism that coexist spatially and temporally. Our research also illustrates lessons for fairer climate governance in the city, where different tactics are mobilized to address structural and intersecting socioeconomic vulnerabilities that exacerbate the experience of climate change of frontline residents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalEnvironmental Policy and Governance
Early online dateSept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2023


  • Barcelona
  • climate governance
  • intersectional climate justice
  • social justice
  • urban politics


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