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Panel 61. Climate Change and Urban Informality: Interactions and Interventions in the Global South and North


  • Taraneh Meshkani is an Assistant Professor at Kent State University’s College of Architecture & Environmental Design, and the Senior Editor of the Plan Journal.


In the era of climate change, the world’s urban centers face unprecedented challenges. While metropolises in the Global North grapple with mitigating their carbon footprints, cities in the Global South confront the stark realities of climate vulnerabilities juxtaposed with rampant urban informality. This session delves into the interactions between climate change and urban informality, understanding their implications, and exploring potential interventions that can be adopted in both the Global South and North.

The burgeoning informal settlements in cities like Nairobi, Dhaka, or Rio de Janeiro are a testament to the resilience and adaptability of communities. However, their precarious existence on the fringes, both socially and spatially, makes them disproportionately vulnerable to climate-induced adversities, be it rising sea levels, erratic rainfall, or extreme heat events.

These climate challenges exacerbate existing inequalities, threaten livelihoods, and place immense pressures on already limited urban resources. In contrast, urban centers in the Global North, despite their technological prowess and infrastructural advancements, face underlying challenges emblematic of deeper systemic issues. Housing crises manifest prominently in these cities, with homelessness, as observed in areas like Skid Row in Los Angeles, reaching staggering numbers. The inadequacy of affordable housing units, coupled with rising real estate prices, has left many urban residents vulnerable.

Compounding this are issues related to inconsistent insurance policies, which often leave those affected by unforeseen calamities without a safety net. Moreover, these cities are on the brink of confronting an intensified housing conundrum due to potential climate-induced migration in the future. As people move in search of safer habitats, the demand-pressure on urban housing is set to escalate, potentially deepening homelessness and housing inadequacies. Climate change further magnifies these challenges, prompting questions about the cities’ preparedness, resilience, and the juxtaposition of meticulously planned urban developments against emergent, often informal, urban responses to crises.

Key questions this session hopes to address include:

  • How does urban informality in both Global North and South influence and get influenced by the multifaceted challenges of climate change?
  • Can informality be harnessed as a tool for climate resilience, given its inherent adaptability and resourcefulness?
  • What lessons can the Global North and South learn from each other in navigating the intertwined challenges of informality and climate change?
  • How can policies and interventions be tailored to simultaneously address climate vulnerabilities while acknowledging and integrating urban informality?

By situating the discourse at the nexus of climate change and urban informality, this session seeks to foster a dialogue that transcends boundaries, offering insights and innovations that resonate globally. By acknowledging informality not just as a challenge but as an opportunity, there lies the potential to craft urban futures that are not only climate-resilient but also inclusive and equitable.

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

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Los Navegantes 1963
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