COP28 is starting today in Dubai. Its critical challenge is to mobilise funding to help a myriad of transition initiatives to combat climate change in a just and equitable manner, particularly in developing economies. Dubai is a leading financial centre of the Middle East, with a rising role in investing funds accumulated in the region and intermediating funds between East Asia and Africa. As COP28 slogan claims it is indeed ‘the crossroads of the world’ and ‘uniquely positioned to build bridges and foster consensus to accelerate inclusive climate progress’. However, the results of previous Conference of the Parties meetings do not fill us with sufficient confidence in this regard. The world is nowhere near mobilising sums estimated as necessary to meet climate change goals, and far from reaching investments needed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
It is on this day and in this context that we are launching the inaugural editorial of Finance & Space journal published by the Regional Studies Association and the Global Network on Financial Geography. The editorial is a manifesto responding to a spectre haunting the world – that of an environmental catastrophe driven by economic exploitation. But as climate change is a wicked problem, wicked is also most financial research, obsessed with markets, prices, and rates, and dominated by national level data and analysis, incompatible with the multi-scalar nature of the catastrophe we are facing. Financial research is possibly the most male- and US-dominated of all academic disciplines. As we document in the editorial, financial research interested in environment, sustainability, power relations, nature or climate is on the rise, but still lags behind in number and influence.
Our manifesto for Finance & Space calls for a dramatic and wide-reaching change in financial research, which starts with a new definition of finance recognising the power of money transforming human and human-environment relations. In pursuing this new definition, we seek to free finance from the grip of a technocratic view on finance as technical, arcane, and best left to specific financial experts, including bankers and financial economists. We argue that finance cannot be revolutionised by ignoring or rejecting money. Instead, it needs to be redefined, retheorised, and revisited empirically through interdisciplinary effort and imaginative qualitative and quantitative methods taking advantage of new opportunities, including a wave of new financial data becoming available. At the same time, we are not calling for a revolution that ignores the long evolution of financial research from which we can draw. In this spirit the editorial reviews some of the key, and sometimes neglected, ideas on the finance-space nexus, as an intellectual journey that led to the journal.
We conclude the editorial with a clear vision and ambition for Finance & Space as a new intellectual space for pluralist engagements on finance, presented in five key points focusing on: diversity of research, relevance to policy and strategy, interdisciplinarity, engaged pluralism, and global coverage. We also discuss our diverse publication formats with full-length articles, practitioner engagement through commentaries, and artistic imagination and expression in financial visualisations (FinVis). In short, we hope that Finance & Space will contribute to a vision of finance in which people and the environment matter. The broad community of Regional Studies Association has a pivotal role to play in realising this vision.
Dariusz Wójcik, David Bassens, Janelle Knox-Hayes, Karen Lai