Can mitigation deliver better cities in the global South? Make Change Happen podcast episode 20

In this episode of Make Change Happen, experts discuss how climate action can work for the poorest living in cities in the global South and share their experiences from India and Argentina.

Article, 19 December 2022

IIED’s  ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast provides an opportunity to hear our researchers and guests discuss key global development challenges and explain what we are doing to support positive change.

The last episode of 2022 brings together experts from across the world to explore how far climate mitigation action can respond to pervasive urban poverty in the global South – seen in a lack of housing and basic services such as water, sanitation and energy – and contribute to more just and equitable cities.

This special episode is hosted by Anna Walnycki, principal researcher in IIED’s Human Settlements research group. Alongside two IIED colleagues, principal researcher Aditya Bahadur and researcher Tucker Landesman, she is joined by two experts working on urban mitigation projects. Bijal Brahmbhatt is executive director of the Mahila Housing Trust in Gujarat, India; Daniel Kozak is senior researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina and director of the Research Center Habitat and Energy.

Together they discuss the arguments for and against mitigation as an approach in informal settlements, where residents have a tiny carbon footprint. Bijal and Daniel share their experiences of working on climate mitigation projects with low-income urban citizens in their respective locations – Ahmedaba, India and Buenos Aires, Argentina – and whether they delivered increased inclusion.

Is mitigation the right option for low-income urban citizens?

In the first part of episode 20, Aditya Bahadur and Tucker Landesman recreate the debate that has been playing out around the role the poorest urban communities should play in planning processes focused on decarbonising cities or achieving net zero.

They establish that, as IIED evidence shows, the urban poor have very low carbon footprints: asking them to shoulder personal responsibility for climate mitigation would be unjust. But excluding low-income residents from discussions about mitigation or decision-making spaces does not represent climate justice either, and comes at huge cost: vast amounts of climate finance are ringfenced for mitigation activity.

Urban mitigation: improving inclusion, growing green spaces

In the second part, the host asks, what does mitigation action targeting climate and poverty in cities look like in practice? Guest expert Bijal Brahmbhatt shares valuable lessons learned from working with marginalised women on a ‘cool roofs’ project in urban India. This involved training the women to assess their own climate vulnerability, increasing their resilience, and advocating with them for their voices to have an impact on policymaking.

Daniel Kozak builds on those insights, giving us a snapshot of his work upgrading and improving low-income neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires by creating green areas and infrastructure in the public space. He describes some of the challenges that stem from the city’s high density, including finding space for plants and irrigation and building consensus among residents around actions to take. 

The episode closes with Bijal and Daniel highlighting the drivers we need to make change happen and deliver urban mitigation that serves the poorest residents.


Head and shoulders photo of Bijal Brahmbhatt.

Bijal Brahmbhatt is executive director at the Mahila Housing Trust in Gujarat, India. She is a civil engineer and a recognised expert in habitat improvement, community development and housing finance. Bijal also has expertise in land tenure and renewable energy issues, and has authored papers on habitat, housing finance, community development and land tenure with World Bank, CEPT University, WIEGO and other organisations. 

Head and shoulders photo of Daniel Kozak.

Daniel Kozak is a senior researcher at the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina, director of the Research Centre Habitat and Energy and professor at the University of Buenos Aires. His main line of work is focused on the implementation of blue-green infrastructure within the framework of nature-based solutions. Daniel is part of the IIED-AL team, working on the IKI-TUC programme in Buenos Aires

Head and shoulders photo of Aditya Bahadur.

Aditya Bahadur is a principal researcher in IIED's Human Settlements research group. He is a specialist in climate-resilient urban development, transformative approaches for risk reduction, monitoring and evaluation of resilience initiatives, designing and delivering research and learning programmes on climate and development, supporting governments in policy and institutional development for resilience; focus on South and Southeast Asia.

Head and shoulders photo of Tucker Landesman.

Tucker Landesman is a researcher in IIED's Human Settlements research group. He is a geographer with a multidisciplinary background and 10 years of experience researching and implementing projects on urban development, climate change and public health in Latin America as well as sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. He focuses on innovative, inclusive urban policy and governance for more equitable and sustainable cities.

Head and shoulders photo of Anna Walnycki.

Anna Walnycki is principal researcher in IIED's Human Settlements research group. She works with civil society organisations and global partners to promote social justice and climate action in cities across the global South. Anna has over 10 years of experience co-producing action research on urban poverty and informality with long-term partners in sub–Saharan Africa and Latin America.

How to listen and subscribe

The ‘Make Change Happen’ podcast provides informal insights into IIED’s work to create positive change and make the complex issues we face more accessible to wider audiences. The title refers to IIED’s 2019-2024 strategy, which sets out how IIED plans to respond to the critical challenges of our time.

The podcast is also available on IIED's YouTube channel.

You can follow some of the people you have heard in this episode on Twitter at @AnnaWalnycki, @AdiBahadur, @TuckerLandesman and @Bijalb_15. Follow the podcast on @IIED_Voices for all the latest updates.