The Green and Just City? Discourses on urban greening in local sustainability planning

University essay from Lunds universitet/Miljövetenskaplig utbildning

Abstract: In the realm of urban planning, urban greening – the creation or restoration of green spaces in cities – has risen as an attractive approach for policy-makers and planners engaged in sustainability. As the benefits of urban greening are many, from social and cultural to environmental and economic, it has become positioned as a win-win solution to several urban challenges related to sustainable development. A growing group of scholars has, however, stressed that urban greening can give rise to new injustices and inequalities through disproportionally benefiting those already well off, as well as creating paradoxical effects of green gentrification. Despite this, urban greening continues to be a consensus-oriented planning approach with little consideration of for whom the green city is created. This study applies critical discourse analysis to explore how the idea of urban green space as a public good for all discursively has come about, and with what implications on social justice. Through a case study in Gothenburg, four discourses on urban greening are identified: the liveable city, the attractive city, the resilient city, and the dense city. In policy, these discourses co-exist and complement one another in creating a utopian vision of the green city. In practice, however, discursive struggles often materialise, resulting in conflicts between different development goals and a decoupling between policy objectives and the urban reality. Notably, the study indicates a prioritisation of economic goals, resulting in urban greening interventions often being rationalised by their potential of increasing attractiveness and competitiveness. Issues of social justice, however, are poorly understood, and the equity implications potentially arising from urban greening agendas receive little or no attention.

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