Title                          Environmental justice analysis to advance rural landscape transformations in the face of climate change

Lead PI                     Prof Adrian Martin, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom

Partner PI                 Dr Brendan Coolsaet, Lille Catholic University, France
                                  Dr Zuzana V. Harmackova Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences Czech Republic
                                  Dr Cecile Barnaud INRAE, France

Funding Agencies    UKRI (UK), ANR (France), MSMT (Czech Republic)

Project website

Picture credits: Marie-Pascale Gafinen


Climate change is forcing European countries to implement transformative changes to multiple sectors. Whilst energy and industrial production systems have dominated these agendas, there are also growing calls for transformations in rural areas, including potentially profound repurposing of rural landscapes. Academic research has mainly focused on the biophysical potential for such repurposing, including actions such as afforestation and livestock removal, to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We now need to complement
this technical assessment with research into the societal dimensions of rural transformations: to identify potential social inequalities, to understand how we can support ownership and legitimacy of rural transformation agendas and to explore ways of overcoming societal indifference and resistance.

The Just-Scapes project will explore the meaning and practice of “just transformation” in the face of climate change. We define this as widescale and deep-rooted social-ecological change that combines environmental goals (including decarbonisation and protection of biodiversity) with social justice goals. Justice goals relate not only to the distribution of the effects of climate change but also to the effects of climate policy responses. This attention to social justice involves challenging inequalities across categories such as race, gender, wealth, belief system and generations, and adhering to the UN’s 2030 Agenda to ‘leave no one behind’. The idea of
‘just transformation’ views social justice as a goal in its own right, but also as instrumental to overcoming ‘justice barriers’ to the visioning and implementation of transformational change. Such barriers are increasingly evident across Europe, with some climate policies viewed as socially regressive, disproportionately impacting on low income and rural households (for example the Gilets Jaunes movement in France).

The Just-Scapes project uses interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary methods, combining novel humanities and social-science approaches and environmental expertise from geography, psychology, political science, futures studies and creative writing. This enables us to a) explore how European rural citizens perceive the justices and injustices arising from potential climate-induced land-use transformations and b) conceptualise and advance justice-oriented transformations to sustainability in practice. Through three case studies, in the Czech Republic, France and the UK, we aim to find out how different stakeholders conceive of climate justice, how
these plural conceptions are contested within particular places, what normative concerns act as barriers to shared vision, and what shared norms provide opportunities for collective action. Specifically, we focus on transformations away from deer-dominated moorland landscapes in Scotland, landscapes dominated by fragile commercial conifer monocultures in the Czech Republic and landscapes of grasslands for extensive livestock farming in France. Just-Scapes proposes to empirically investigate the plurality of justice beliefs
across these landscapes, to use this knowledge to inform deliberation of shared norms and visions, and to coproduce landscape level manifestos for ‘just transformations’ towards low carbon, resilient and socially progressive rural landscapes.

The deliberative process will be embedded in transdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder ‘Just Transformation Labs’ that are linked into ‘real’ ongoing policy consultations within the landscape and wider regions. Findings from the project will benefit these case study lfocations but will also provide understanding and methodologies for wider application for proposed rural land-use climate actions. The team will use its links to academic networks and science-policy platforms to also promote scientific and societal impacts at national and
international levels.