In the summer of 2018 the European Commission awarded Lisbon as European Green Capital 2020 – in part due to investments made by Lisbon municipality in Green Infrastructure (GI) and new green spaces. As the city is becoming greener, this study aims to analyze Lisbon’s urban greening strategies from an environmental justice perspective. It does so based on data collected through desk-research of relevant planning documents and other studies; semi-structured interviews held with individuals working in different positions at Lisbon municipality; and field observations made in Lisbon’s green spaces. The data was analyzed while attending to the different dimensions of environmental justice (EJ), namely procedural and substantive aspects.
This research finds that Lisbon’s urban greening strategies reflect environmental justice concerns by seeking to expand GI across the city and increase green space availability. However the strategies are based on a quantitative analysis of the spatial distribution of green spaces, failing to address other barriers that may prevent people from accessing and using green space. This is problematic as EJ is considered to go beyond just distribution.
Furthermore forms of public participation and consultation are rather limited and are an exception to the rule; the decision-making process is based on the expert knowledge of civil servants – mainly landscape architects. As participation is seen as a central element of EJ, this research identifies a risk for Lisbon’s urban greening strategies to bypass the different needs and vulnerabilities of different social groups. Therefore, this study recommends policy-makers to include qualitative data regarding the use of Lisbon’s green spaces when analyzing access to green space, and to actively involve and recognize local residents when designing and implementing Lisbon’s GI.