Linda Shi: Equity Impacts of Land Use Planning for Climate Adaptation

Milan skyscrapers in background with slums along the water.

Manila, with informal elements along the Estero de Paco creek in front, highlights urban inequality and exposure to environmental hazards. photo / Linda Shi

Linda Shi is an assistant professor in Cornell's Department of City and Regional Planning. Her research and practice focus on urban environmental and regional governance and advancing planning policies to manage the urban climate transition in ways that improve social equity and ecological sustainability. Most recently, her research examines how the crosscutting challenge of climate change impact is reviving collaborative efforts across metropolitan regions of the U.S. Her experiences suggest that limitations of existing institutions are leading to adaptation policies that reproduce or worsen existing vulnerabilities, and that such efforts should place greater emphasis on building institutions for regional governance than on policies for climate adaptation per se. Shi has a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from MIT, a master's in urban planning from Harvard GSD, and a bachelor's and master's in environmental management from Yale University.


A growing number of cities are preparing for climate change impacts by developing adaptation plans. However, little is known about how these plans and their implementation affect the vulnerability of the urban poor. This seminar presents a paper that critically assesses initiatives in eight cities worldwide and finds that land-use planning for climate adaptation can exacerbate sociospatial inequalities across diverse developmental and environmental conditions. The paper argues that urban adaptation injustices fall into two categories — acts of commission, when interventions negatively affect or displace poor communities; and acts of omission, when they protect and prioritize elite groups at the expense of the urban poor.

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