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Rhetoric & Practice of Green Recovery in Cities


Rhetorics of ‘green recovery’ have emerged with the desire to ‘build back better’ from the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the precise policies and practices associated with this rhetoric remain undefined. How are different actors mobilising these rhetorics, and to what extent do they provide an opportunity to rethink ways of organising urban life?

Responding to the need for a multidisciplinary approach to analyse the rhetoric and practices of green recovery in cities, this GW4 community will focus on the way that ‘future scenarios’ are used to construct and contest knowledge about climate change and transitions to net zero. The project will focus on four cities in the South West—Bath, Bristol, Cardiff, and Exeter.

Our key research themes are:

  • Pledges and policies to achieve net zero, and how the politics of knowledge production interacts with policy at the city scale;
  • Interactions between activist groups and formal governance structures;
  • The role of rhetoric and narrative in perceptions of climate change and environmental policy;
  • How different actors are mobilising rhetorics of green recovery.

To address these themes, this community is collaborating with existing climate and environmental research groups in the South West; establishing connections with organisations in the private, public, and third sectors as pathways to achieving impact; and developing and showcasing the work of early career researchers alongside that of more established academics. We are embarking on an ambitious programme of grant-capture to support our activities in the longer-term, and expand our operations to a wider European scale.

At a time when climate breakdown requires urgent and rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, this project will help to imagine and implement more just transitions to a low-carbon future.


Project Summary

The community used the Generator Funds to hold a Green Recovery Co-Design workshop with activists, NGOs and local governments across Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter to discuss plans and aspirations for a green post-Covid recovery. A report from the workshop, including a podcast created by the project RA, is available via the community website. The event was discussion-based, and explored questions such as: which different visions of green recovery are being promoted? How are these visions being translating into action? How are priorities and plans driving innovation and tackling inequalities?

The core team took ideas discussed at this workshop into a grant writing retreat, which resulted in multiple submitted grant applications including a successful British Academy award to continue the community’s research activities.

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter