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Proximity to busy transit routes and socially disadvantaged areas tend to be more polluted

Berlin’s environmental justice atlas is what the city needs for a just transition

Berlin’s environmental justice atlas is what the city needs for a just transition

It shows that socially disadvantaged areas tend to suffer from compounding levels of pollution

On Tuesday, authorities in Berlin published an updated version of the city’s climate justice atlas. The atlas takes a look at the spatial distribution of environmental pollutants in the German capital’s territory. The research is supposed to help local lawmakers when crafting green policy by showing areas where it is most needed.

The climate atlas looks at five factors impacting the quality of life – noise pollution, air pollution, bioclimatic (abnormal heat, cold and etc.) load, supply of green spaces and social disadvantage.

These factors have a tendency to compound and feed off each other, which can have a significant negative impact on the health and wellbeing of citizens.

berlin map The darker an area is coloured the more polluting factors it suffers from, Source: City of Berlin

Building off the data to create a more just city

The first climate justice atlas in Berlin was developed in 2019 to track the correlations between compounding climate issues. At the same time, it would allow lawmakers to target specific areas with climate mitigation measures.

Simply put, this means that not all neighbourhoods in Berlin are made equal. Some are exposed to large amounts of noise pollution, while the uneven spread of green spaces impacts the day-to-day life of citizens.

According to the atlas, however, the disproportionate effect of pollution is not only limited to Berlin’s inner city, and also affects the outskirts. Furthermore, researchers point out that while densely populated areas do attract more pollution, a bigger factor is the residential districts’ proximity to busy transit routes.

At the same, Senator Bettina Jarasch explained that people with low social status are overwhelmingly exposed to dangerous compounding levels of pollution. This, she says, is due to the fact that quite often they live in densely populated areas with low access to green space and a lot of passing traffic.

She continued by pointing out that the atlas shows that environmental protection is a burning issue from a social justice perspective.

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