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Journal Article

Environmental inequality in industrial brownfields: Evidence from French municipalities


Bez,  Charlotte Sophia
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

Ash,  Michael
External Organizations;

Boyce,  James K.
External Organizations;

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Bez, C. S., Ash, M., Boyce, J. K. (2024): Environmental inequality in industrial brownfields: Evidence from French municipalities. - Ecological Economics, 217, 108018.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_28990
Recent research on environmental inequality has extended its focus from ongoing pollution to legacy pollution by examining the geography of industrial brownfields, defined as non-productive, contaminated land. This article is the first extensive brownfield analysis for a European country from an environmental inequality perspective, exploiting the political momentum in France where brownfield restoration has become a national priority. We combine data on over 7200 industrial brownfields from the 2022 geodatabase ‘Cartofriches’ with socio-economic variables at the municipality level. We demonstrate that communities with higher percentages of foreign-born and unemployed persons are disproportionately more likely to be located in proximity to brownfields. The social gradient increases significantly in communities that host more than two brownfields. There is an inverted U-shaped relationship with income, with a turning point at approximately 25,600 annually. These findings are robust across urban and rural areas, though with regional differences. Our analysis provides entry points for restorative environmental justice considerations and has important implications for Europe's just transition and cohesion policies.