Environment & Urbanization

World leading environmental and urban studies journal

Themes for future issues

Environment and Urbanization does not take unsolicited proposals for special issues.

October 2023: Urbanization and economic development

Submissions have closed.

There is growing recognition among policymakers and researchers around the world that cities perform a leading role in economic growth and human development. This contribution is doubly important as countries seek to bounce back from the dual health and economic crises of COVID-19. Although the pandemic threatens core aspects of urban life, such as density and connectivity, cities are best placed to lead the economic recovery, renewal and transformation. This is because they have inherent advantages for growth and inclusion arising from the concentration of assets, institutions and diverse skill sets, along with strong information and trading connections to other cities and regions. These attributes have the potential to foster dynamic human and business interactions that promote learning, stimulate enterprise, raise productivity, create jobs and livelihoods, and increase the returns on public and private investment. However, the positive feedback and synergies are not automatic because urban growth is also accompanied by congestion, pollution, overloaded infrastructure, social tensions and higher property prices, which can deter productive investment, entrepreneurial talent and highly skilled workers. Successful outcomes seem to require capable city-level institutions to guide the process and provide essential public goods and services, because market mechanisms cannot organize urban development effectively to ensure that it creates functional, liveable and sustainable environments.

The purpose of this special issue is to explore the contemporary opportunities and challenges facing cities in seeking to boost economic growth and ensure widely shared prosperity. What are the foundations of urban economic success in the 21st century and how are these changing? What obstacles need to be tackled to harness the potential of urbanization to lift people out of poverty and improve their wellbeing? Environment and Urbanization encourages submissions that address one or more of the following key themes:

  • The relationship between urbanization and economic growth/development.
  • The challenge of low productivity, low investment and low-income urban growth, and the success of efforts to transform these conditions.
  • The effectiveness of efforts to promote small, medium and/or large enterprises, to create jobs and to secure livelihoods.
  • The changing relationship among the locations of firms, households and transport systems in the post-pandemic city.
  • The planning and financing of urban infrastructure to improve productivity and liveability.
  • The role of city-level governance and institutions in planning and managing urban economic development.
  • The role of cities in macroeconomic policies, national industrial policies and/or national infrastructure plans.
  • Ways of understanding and enhancing links between city economies and economic activity in small towns and villages in the surrounding area.
  • The concept and measurement of urban density and its economic upsides and downsides.
  • The existence and strength of agglomeration economies in the global South.
  • The relationship between urban economies and the climate emergency.
  • The contribution of digital technology and/or innovation to urban economic development.

April 2024: Decarbonization and urban justice

Deadline for submissions: 15 August 2023. (Short expressions of interest outlining potential articles are welcome any time before 15 July 2023.)


Much of the debate on climate justice in cities focuses on adaptation and calls on wealthy countries and  donors to increase and decentralize investments and aid for climate adaptation projects. This reflects how the increasingly severe effects of climate breakdown – for example more frequent intense storms, heat and flooding – disproportionately hurt the urban poor across the global North and South. There is less focus on cities as accelerators of decarbonization or how mitigation finance can also respond to pervasive dimensions of urban poverty such as poor access to housing and basic services. Decarbonization has the potential to transform life in cities. However, to be equitable in effectiveness, interventions must benefit all urban residents, especially the urban poor. Informal settlements and other low-income neighbourhoods have relatively low carbon footprints, and any infrastructural investments in these neighbourhoods that include a focus on decarbonization will enable these communities to bypass the carbon-intensive trajectories underway in other parts of the city.

We invite contributions that expand documentation and deepen our knowledge of how climate change mitigation policies and practices can align with the agendas of new and established urban social movements and the imperative to decrease socioeconomic inequalities in cities. This special issue of Environment and Urbanization will build on the growing literature examining climate justice in cities (Bulkeley, Edwards and Fuller 2014; Granberg and Glover 2021) and urban just transitions (McCauley 2021; Hughes and Hoffmann 2020), particularly concerning emissions mitigation and resilience in informal and low-income neighbourhoods (Almansi, Motta and Hardoy 2020; Satterthwaite et al. 2020; Dodman, Archer and Mayr 2018), aligning climate finance with infrastructure inequalities and urban justice (Mulligan et al. 2020; Colenbrander, Dodman and Mitlin 2018), the injustice of urban climate policy and action (Blok 2020; Bouzarovski, Frankowski and Herrero 2018; Sovacool et al. 2019), and how urban social movements are contesting inequalities in the context of a warming planet (Routledge, Cumbers and Derickson 2018; Pickerill 2020).

We invite submissions in the form of academic articles or Field Notes based on original research or innovative practices. We will also consider interviews or dialogue exchanges(1) with social movement leaders or artists. Potential themes to explore include:

  • Policy and governance innovations driving decarbonization and reduction of poverty in cities
  • Analysis of co-produced and pro-poor mitigation interventions from informal settlements and low-income neighbourhoods
  • Analysis of new urban social movements in relation to environmental and climate justice
  • Creative approaches of community mobilization connecting the arts, activism and climate action
  • Critical analysis of urban climate policy and governance in relation to social, economic and spatial inequalities
  • Planning for more equitable and compact cities, with potential (re)development on brownfield and greenfield sites
  • Potential clashes between urban justice and climate action, such as “green gentrification”, forced relocation of informal settlements, “green washing” etc.
  • The concept, measurement and application of “climate justice” in cities
  • Regional or international comparative analysis of climate action and inequalities
  • Tracking and analysis of climate finance flows to cities and effects on segregation and socioeconomic and spatial inequalities
  • Integration of renewable energy and/or green-blue infrastructure in informal and low-income neighbourhoods

 [1] In contrast to an interview, a dialogue exchange might be an edited conversation between two or three thought- and movement leaders speaking to relevant research questions and debate.


Almansi, Florencia, Jorge Martín Motta and Jorgelina Hardoy (2020), “Incorporating a resilience lens into the social and urban transformation of informal settlements: The participatory upgrading process in Villa 20, Buenos Aires (2016–2020)”, Environment and Urbanization Vol 32, No 2, pages 407–28, available at https://doi.org/10.1177/0956247820935717.

Blok, Anders (2020), “Urban green gentrification in an unequal world of climate change”, Urban Studies Vol 57, No 14, pages 2803–16, available at https://doi.org/10.1177/0042098019891050.

Bouzarovski, Stefan, Jan Frankowski and Sergio Tirado Herrero (2018), “Low-carbon gentrification: When climate change encounters residential displacement”, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research Vol 42, No 5, pages 845–63, available at https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2427.12634.

Bulkeley, Harriet, Gareth A S Edwards and Sara Fuller (2014), “Contesting climate justice in the city: Examining politics and practice in urban climate change experiments”, Global Environmental Change Vol 25 (March), pages 31–40, available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.01.009.

Colenbrander, Sarah, David Dodman and Diana Mitlin (2018), “Using climate finance to advance climate justice: The politics and practice of channelling resources to the local level”, Climate Policy Vol 18, No 7, pages 902–15, available at https://doi.org/10.1080/14693062.2017.1388212.

Dodman, David, Diane Archer and Marcus Mayr (2018), “Addressing the most vulnerable first – pro-poor climate action in informal settlements”, UN-Habitat, Nairobi, 60 pages, available at https://apo.org.au/node/219601.

Granberg, Mikael and Leigh Glover (2021), “The climate just city”, Sustainability Vol 13, No 3, pages 1201, available at https://doi.org/10.3390/su13031201.

Hughes, Sara and Matthew Hoffmann (2020), “Just urban transitions: Toward a research agenda”, WIREs Climate Change Vol 11, No 3: e640, available at https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.640.

McCauley, Darren (2021), “Managing a just transition in urban Ccntexts”, Urban Planning, Management and Governance in Emerging Economies, June, pages 40–56.

Mulligan, Joe, Vera Bukachi, Jack Campbell Clause, Rosie Jewell, Franklin Kirimi and Chelina Odbert (2020), “Hybrid infrastructures, hybrid governance: New evidence from Nairobi (Kenya) on green-blue-grey infrastructure in informal settlements”, Anthropocene Vol 29 (March): 100227, available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ancene.2019.100227.

Pickerill, Jenny (2020), “Eco-communities as insurgent climate urbanism: Radical urban socio-material transformations”, Urban Geography Vol 42, No 6, pages 1–6, available at https://doi.org/10.1080/02723638.2020.1850618.

Routledge, Paul, Andrew Cumbers and Kate Driscoll Derickson (2018), “States of just transition: Realising climate justice through and against the State”, Geoforum Vol 88 (January), pages 78–86, available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2017.11.015.

Satterthwaite, David, Diane Archer, Sarah Colenbrander, David Dodman, Jorgelina Hardoy, Diana Mitlin and Sheela Patel (2020), “Building resilience to climate change in informal settlements”, One Earth Vol 2, No 2, pages 143–56, available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2020.02.002.

Sovacool, Benjamin K, Lucy Baker, Mari Martiskainen and Andrew Hook (2019), “Processes of elite power and low-carbon pathways: Experimentation, financialisation, and dispossession”, Global Environmental Change Vol 59 (November): 101985, available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2019.101985.


Please contact Jenny Peebles, E&U Managing Editor, to submit an expression of interest or with any queries: Jenny.Peebles@iied.org.

Guest editors

Dr Anna Walnycki, Principal researcher, Human Settlements research group, International Institute for Environment and Development

Dr Tucker Landesman, Senior researcher, Human Settlements research group, International Institute for Environment and Development