The Bartlett Development Planning Unit

Prof Vanessa Castan Broto

Prof Vanessa Castan Broto

Honorary Professor

UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
6th Feb 2018

Research summary

My research focuses on possibilities to enhance the wellbeing of urban citizens through planning interventions and environmental management. This practical objective is inspired by an underlying  concern about how environmental problems unfold in context and how different perspectives may lead to environmental conflict. I am the principal investigator of the project ‘Mapping Urban Energy Landscapes’ (MUEL), funded under the Economic and Social Research Council programme ‘Future Research Leaders’. The objective of MUEL is to understand the relationship between energy use, access to services and spatial transformations. Such understanding may help to draw pathways for sustainable development in cities in the global south. The project is developing innovative methods for understanding the relationship between social practices and energy use through participatory mapping.

Until 2014 I was the principal investigator of the project ‘Partnerships for Climate Compatible Development in Maputo, Mozambique’ (4PCCD) which developed participatory planning methods through which communities can establish their priorities to develop resilient neighbourhoods. This project was funded by the Department of International Development (DfiD), thought the Climate Development Knowledge Network. The project involved communities together with local and national authorities in Mozambique and promoted participatory planning as a suitable mechanism for delivering climate policy. The project was distinguished by the United Nations with the Award of 2013 Lighthouse Activity- Urban Poor under the programme ‘Momentum for Change’ and it was showcased at a side event in the COP19 in Warsaw. Following this experience, I delivered a keynote speech on participatory planning to the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, June 2014.

I was a co-investigator in other projects including ‘Radical Transformations in Infrastructure’ (funded by the EPSRC, led by Newcastle University), and Future Proofing Cities (funded by DfiD, led by Atkins Ltd).

Teaching summary

My teaching relates closely with my research interests. At the Development Planning Unit I am one of the course directors of the MSc Environment and Sustainable Development, in which I teach on  the potential for planning to deliver environmental justice in cities in the global south.

I am interested in supervising students on the following topics:

-Energy and urban development in the global south

-The political ecology of energy infrastructure

-Urban transitions to sustainability

-Environmental planning and management in cities in the global south

-Participatory planning

-Cities and climate change governance



I joined the Bartlett Development and Planning Unit in January 2011, with the aim to contribute  to achieve socially and environmentally just development in cities in the global south. This objective inspires my teaching within the DPU. I also seek to contribute to this objective through doing research relevant to planning on topics such as: the dynamics of social learning following infrastructure crises and natural disasters; participatory methodologies for the implementation of mitigation and adaptation strategies in cities in developing countries; and the political consequences of urban innovation for climate change.

I believe that achieving social and environmental justice depends on engaging with multi-dimensional and complex issues. Thus, I feel fortunate that I have an interdisciplinary background in natural resources engineering and environmental sociology, having completed postgraduate degrees in Spain (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid) and the Netherlands (Wageningen University) and an engineering doctorate in the UK (University of Surrey).  Prior to joining the DPU, I was involved in post-doctoral research at Durham University which examined the processes of social and technological innovation within the city in response to climate change.