Decentering urban climate finance: relational comparison in theory and practice

Drs Hanna Hilbrandt, Sarah Knuth, Enora Robin, Fritz Julius Grafe, Zac Taylor, Emma Colven, and Sage Ponder

Funding period: 1 October 2021 – 1 June 2022
Type of funding: Seminar Series

Host institution: University of Zurich, Department of Geography (Switzerland), Durham University, Department of Geography (UK), Urban Institute, University of Sheffield (UK),
Dates: October 2021 (Durham, UK), May 2022 (Zurich), and online during November 2021, February 2022 and April 2022
Lead organisers: Dr Hanna Hilbrandt (University of Zurich), Dr Sarah Knuth (Durham University), Dr Enora Robin (University of Sheffield), Dr Fritz Julius Grafe (University of Zurich), Dr Zac Taylor (TU Delft), Dr Emma Colven (University of Oklahoma), and Dr Sage Ponder (Florida State University)
Contact: Hanna Hilbrandt

Abstract: Within the context of the unfolding ecological crisis, financial agendas centering on the ‘global fight against climate change’ have increasingly turned to cities and urban re/development projects as ideal candidates for investment. This turn has generated a proliferation of finance-driven resilience, retrofitting and decarbonisation projects around the world. Yet research documenting the resulting financialisation of urban climate and nature remains primarily concerned with cities in which consolidated financial markets are already the norm, or with case studies that conceptualise ‘climate finance’ in relatively narrow terms (frequently, financial instruments created by market actors for the express purpose of ‘impact’ investing). This seminar series proposes both to provincialise these imagined geographies of climate finance and to decenter notions of the ‘financial’, advancing a theorisation of ‘ordinary’ urban climate finance: the heterogeneous financial practices and articulations that are coming to characterise climate finance (Robin and Castán Broto, 2021) in ordinary cities (Robinson 2006). Bringing debates on urban climate finance and more expansive lenses into urban financing and provisioning together will allow us to read the impacts of climate finance on cities more relationally and engage in comparative theory-building across varying geographical foci. This collective discussion will push beyond ‘smart’ techno-capitalist and financialised urban fantasies to develop a more nuanced understanding of climate-adapted urban futures.