UCL European & International Social & Political Studies


Urban Lab Hosts Innovative Research on Energy Justice and Citizen Assemblies

1 March 2024

Dr Ala’a Shehabi and UCL Urban Laboratory have been awarded a £300,000 grant to advance the research agenda on energy justice in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.


The research responds to the urgent need to centre citizens in national, regional and global decisions on energy policy, and incorporate a Global South perspective in the academic discussion of energy justice. 

The two projects are funded by the Porticus Foundation and will be led by Dr Ala’a Shehabi, Associate Professor at UCL European and International Social and Political Studies (EISPS) and Senior Research Fellow at the Bartlett Faculty, and Dr Muzna Al-Masri, who has recently joined Urban Lab as a Senior Research Fellow to co-lead the project. The projects will also be supported by a team of senior advisors from the region that include Dr Dana Abi Ghanem.  

Within the global discussion of energy transitions, the first project titled “(En)Visioning Justice: Energy Futures in the Global South” will explore the everyday reality and future imaginaries that could and/or should frame the priorities of the energy transition. The project will do this by nurturing a locally grounded and globally engaged space for debate on just energy futures by academics in the field. 

The second project, “(En)Visioning Justice: Citizen Assemblies in Nondemocratic Contexts” will conduct two citizen assemblies (CAs) in two different cities on the theme of energy transition, equity and sustainability, with a specific focus on the process of transitioning to renewable energy in urban settings in an affordable and effective way. The CAs will provide the scientific community with the opportunity to translate the complexity of energy systems to the general public, and to listen to the public’s concerns, priorities and experiences. The convening of the CAs will also allow for testing, advancing and evaluating the CA as methodology for deliberative democracy in MENA cities.  

Urban Lab Director, Clare Melhuish commented:  

Energy justice and energy transitions are central questions for urban planning and design, in the context of sustainable and green city debates, but they are also fundamentally linked to the issue of geopolitical urban inequalities. The cities of the world most affected by the climate crisis, for example in the MENA region, are at the forefront of these questions. Urban Lab is therefore glad to provide a home for this research project on citizen participation in climate justice, ‘re-centering people in policies’. We look forward to fostering synergies with our ongoing work through questions relating to urban energy and democratic governance of cities, participating in decolonial knowledge production and sharing across borders.

A consultative meeting on energy justice, bringing together a cross disciplinary group of researchers working in and/or on the MENA region is planned in the spring of 2024, and the two citizen assemblies will be convened between September 2024 and May 2025.  

More Information

Image: Public meeting in Lebanon, November 2019, by Dr Muzna Al-Masri