Green Geographies of Evaluation and De-valuation
It is impossible to theorize green valuation, commodification,
and various forms of surplus extraction without their corollaries — green devaluation, decommodification, and disinvestment/destruction .
While climate policy interventions may create profitable avenues for value capture and enclosure in areas and regions that are considered low-risk to global financial capital, the phasing out of fossil-fuel sources is also conducive to mass devaluations (of industries, of land and the built environments) in areas that can’t break their dependency on carbon-intensive industrial systems, or that don’t have the social and economic capital to convert from an extractive to a regenerative economy.
Motivation and Context
As global environmental agendas gain momentum and new ‘green’ financial geographies rise to prominence, political economists and economic geographers have started engaging intensively with the legal and financial dimensions of ‘green’ urban governance and its uneven impacts on economic and socio-spatial arrangements in cities and regions. The volume of investment envisioned in climate-related interventions in the post-pandemic recovery eludes public budgets’ capability and can’t be decoupled from global-scale financial interventions, at a moment where the global market for green- and climate-related financial products is reaching record highs. This sets the stage for concerted efforts of global financial institutions, local governments, nongovernmental entities and private actors to invest in the production of “green”, climate-resilient urban space. Ebbs and flows of green capital investment, along with new patterns of disinvestment and devaluation, are leaving their marks on the built environment and on the social fabric of communities — and such transformations aren’t going unnoticed in the scholarly debate. Research around low-carbon transitions has shown that negative externalities are not unusual in the wake of ecological transitions: as capital flows are being spent on aggressively pursuing low-carbon alternatives, these investment open the road for a host of environmental and socioeconomic benefits, but also for a concurrent avalanche of disruptive changes, creating new speculative geographies of investment as much as new urban spaces of urban shrinkage, devaluation and decline.
A growing body of research in geography, sociology and environmental studies over the last fifteen years has engaged with investigations of the socio-spatial transformations brought about by urban greening and climate mitigation projects across the globe and explored the ambivalent repercussions of value-extracting green property speculations on vulnerable communities.
On the other side, political ecologists and economists are highlighting worrying patterns of disinvestment and devaluation that are engendered in the wake of low-carbon transitions. In fossil-fuel dependent regions, these include the closing industrial clusters and the associated waves of unemployment or outmigration, and increasing fiscal pressures on local governments, decay of urban infrastructure, and social disenfranchisement of specific socio-economic groups and sectors. In other regions, there are risks of asset stranding and mass devaluation of property markets that can’t be retrofitted to meet new standards and regulations, resulting in constrained geographic mobility of residents, property vacancy or abandonment, and socioeconomic decline.
In sum, while certain regions can take advantage of the green revolution, others are left vulnerable because of their reliance on industries that have been historically crucial to their economies and whose competitiveness is declining, or because energy transition requirements add new layers of technological obsolescence to property markets and industries that are already suffering. Lastly, research hasn’t lost sight of the fact that geographies of green growth, particularly in the Global North, are based on renewable energy technologies that are inextricably bound to new environmental cycles of resources exploitation and environmental degradation, particularly in areas of the developing world. This conference will examine these urban trends through research in mostly North America and Europe, but not excluding other territories.
This conference calls for scholars from across all fields and from a range of career stages to engage with theoretical development and empirical analysis on the many place-based ramifications of climate finance and ecological transitions, and on their socioeconomic impacts on residents, businesses and communities.
The conference will seek to examine the following questions:
How do processes of green evaluations and de-valuations play out in the urban space?
How do these tendencies materialize into urban rural and industrial geographies?
How are civic groups mobilizing and resisting against those emerging urban inequalities?
What policies and politics can support more just urban futures?
Confronting the tensions and struggles surrounding the emerging uneven geographies of climate governance is essential to develop an informed scholarship that reflects on the innovations and opportunities of a low-carbon future, while not failing to recognize the major policy challenges ahead.
The conference is structured around four sessions, in which the following topics will be discussed:
- Extractive financial geographies of greening and climate mitigation
- Green value capture and enclosure, green gentrification
- Energy transition, retrofit and climate-related obsolescence
- Resource exploitation and environmental degradation in the name of low-carbon transitions
- Deindustrialization and “just transitions”
Participation and format
The conference will be held in hybrid format (physical and online) at University of Leicester on May 15th, 2023. You are invited to send an abstract (200 words) for a 15/20 minutes presentation.
Lead Organizer: Dr. Alessandro Busà
Funding: EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, University of Leicester
With: BCNUEJ, Boston University
 The quote is by Sarah Knuth (2016), Green devaluation: Disruption, divestment, and decommodification for a green economy. Capitalism Nature Socialism, 28(1), 98–117.