The unjust distribution of urban green infrastructure is just the tip of the iceberg: A systematic review of place-based studies

Adriana A. Zuniga-Teran, Andrea K. Gerlak, Alison D. Elder, Alexander Tam

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Many cities are turning to greening efforts to increase resilience, but such efforts often favor privileged groups, thereby resulting in injustices. In this systematic review, we analyze 71 place-based studies of green infrastructure (GI) justice in cities worldwide. We draw from environmental justice scholarship, as well as climate and water justice literature to assess the state-of-the-art knowledge of urban GI justice. We examine the way GI is researched to improve our understanding of the types of injustices that exist in GI planning, siting, and implementation, providing rich insights into why injustices exist and pathways to address GI injustice. We find that research on GI justice in cities is growing and expanding its scope in terms of both the types of justice issues analyzed, and the groups of people excluded from the benefits of GI. We find that GI injustice stems from a history of unequal investment and non-participatory decision-making processes, where the unequal distribution of GI is only the “tip of the iceberg”. To address GI injustice around distribution, cities would have to offset a decades-long lack of investment and inclusivity in decision-making processes. Pathways to achieve GI justice point to assessing unbalanced power structures, directing continuous funding to community engagement programs and greening efforts, leveraging existing infrastructure through the multifunctionality of GI, and dedicating funding mechanisms for safety and maintenance. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research is needed to integrate the different dimensions of GI that are tailored to the community on the ground, and to monitor progress toward justice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-245
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Climate justice
  • Climate vulnerability
  • Environmental justice
  • Green infrastructure
  • Nature-based solutions
  • Stormwater management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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