Whose knowledge counts in nature-based solutions? Understanding epistemic justice for nature-based solutions through a multi-city comparison across Europe and Asia

Mabon, Leslie; Barkved, Line; Bruin, Karianne de; Shih, Wan-Yu


There is increasing advocacy from academics, international agenda-setting organisations, and cities themselves for expert- and evidence driven approaches to multiple aspects of urban climate change and sustainability, including nature-based solutions. However, given growing interest in nature-based solutions research and practice towards questions of justice, it is important that the knowledge systems used to inform decisions about urban nature-based solutions are critically scrutinised. We use the lens of epistemic justice – justice in knowledge, with regard to how society defines a problem and the range of possible solutions – to assess nature-based solutions actions for climate adaptation and resilience across five cities: Amsterdam, Glasgow, Hanoi, Oslo, and Taipei. Our study finds common issues: the risk of quantifiable evidence about the distribution of NbS and its benefits closing down the aims of NbS strategies to meeting narrowly-defined indicators; the potential for self-defined communities of experts becoming de facto authorities on NbS; and the need for those tasked with implementing NbS ‘on the ground’ to have access to the fora and knowledge systems in which NbS strategies are developed. A key message is that more participation alone is insufficient to address epistemic justice concerns, unless it comes at a stage where a broad range of stakeholders (and their knowledges) can influence adaptation strategies and the role of NbS within them. Given the inter- and transdisciplinary nature of NbS scholarship, we argue attention must be focused on the potential for exclusion of key knowledge systems from policy and governance processes.