top of page
  • Writer's pictureErika Conchis

Visual Summary: reparative innovation for climate change adaptation

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Recent articles suggest that adaptations to climate change in cities often disadvantage vulnerable communities. In the article Reparative innovation for climate change adaptation, Vanesa Castán Broto, Linda Westman and Ping Huang ask what it means to look for reparative innovation for climate change adaptation.

Emerging research suggests that these disruptive measures can lead to inequalities, especially to the most vulnerable communities

Here, we propose to look for reparative innovation for climate change adaptation.

Adapting to climate change in cities is a challenge for actors with limited resources, especially for informal areas where there is a lack of services, and in rapidly growing peripheries where new infrastructure will soon be needed.

It's in those areas in particular that climate change adaptation solutions are linked with histories of dispossession and colonisation, which raises the question of justice...

in theory: climate adaptation in city planning could address inequalities

but in practice: the negative impacts of climate action on vulnerable populations are apparent

Climate adaptation can raise the financial value of an environment, ultimately driving marginalised groups out of the area.

Recent research focuses more on local, DIY solutions that come from residents. However, formal initiatives rarely include them.

Climate adaptation calls for reparative innovations: innovations that factor in a city's history of inequalities whilst planning for its future livability.

Reparative justice and restorative justice are frequently used interchangeably...

Restorative justice aims to include the transforming alternatives coming from the indigenous affective experiences of colonisation and decolonisation.

With a restorative justice framework, governments should have a responsibility to maintain a restorative process.

Reparative justice focuses on the active efforts to engage with people, their lived experiences, the materiality of everyday life and the fabric of cities.

Reparation implies actions to address the wrongs of the past. But it isn't the same as paying for a deed; a compensation for harm and loss isn't enough.

Reparative justice calls for studying the history of climate change as a problem, a way to attribute responsibilities for reparation.

Reparation is not a straight forward process…

It requires understanding the practical experiences, it requires conversation, experimentation, engaging with different methods to shape reparative justice processes where responsibility must be widespread.

The concept of reparative innovation contrasts with the one of disruptive innovation.

Disruptive innovation seeks to radically alter a market and technological context.

Transitions happen when disruptive innovations force a social and material realignment.

Following these theories, disruptive innovations have the potential to introduce sustainable solutions. However, the concept of disruptive innovation is limited because it doesn’t acknowledge the variety of means for innovation.

Whereas, sustaining innovations introduce change incrementally.

But while disruptive innovations may have a place in urban adaptation, they emerge from within dominant socio-technical systems and do not necessarily challenge them.

Unlike narratives of disruptive innovation, reparative innovations emerge from a recognition of specific social and cultural histories that shape the context of adaptation action.

Reparative innovation is a means to rethink alternatives for urban adaptation that, rather than disrupting existing infrastructure systems, seek to engage with the political impacts of situated knowledges and ecologies.


bottom of page