Rhetoric and Practices of Green Recovery in Cities


Awarded: 2021

GW4 community leads
University of Bath: Sophia Hatzisavvidou
University of Bristol: Oscar Berglund
Cardiff University: David Shackleton (PI)
University of Exeter: Jess Britton

Project overview

This collaboration investigates the rhetoric and practices of green recovery in UK cities in the time of COVID-19.




Galvanized by the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire to ‘build back better’, rhetorics of ‘green recovery’ have emerged with proposals for a Green New Deal. Yet the precise policies and practices associated with this rhetoric remain undefined. For instance, it is uncertain whether green recovery narratives reinforce or reconfigure existing systems of power and provisioning in cities. 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:

  • National, devolved, regional and local government pledges and policies to achieve net zero emissions targets, and how the politics of knowledge production at these different levels interacts with policy at the city-scale
  • Privatization of energy, transport and waste-management, and the influence of austerity on public and private approaches to service provision including (re)municipalisation
  • The role of narrative and fiction in perceptions of climate change and environmental policy
  • Environmental activism, including the interactions between activist groups and formal governance structures.

At a time when climate breakdown requires urgent transitions away from fossil fuels and towards net-zero societies, this GW4 community will help to imagine and implement more equitable transitions to a low-carbon future.

Project summary

To address our research themes, this community will collaborate with existing climate and environmental research groups in the South West; establish connections with organisations in the private, public and voluntary sectors as pathways to achieving impact; and develop and showcase the work of early career researchers. We will embark on an ambitious programme of grant-capture to support our activities in the longer-term and expand our operations to a wider European scale.

Community site (GW4 Portal)