Towards a greener future?

In today’s economic climate, cities represent the conjunction between technological evolution and society’s past – they provide a platform for which people, goods and profit can meet. If the majority of the world population will live in an urban environment by 2050, then the fight for climate revitalization and equity will inevitably take place in our metropolises.

Having intensively studied a number of a variety of geography-related disciplines at UBC and Cambridge, second-year PhD student in the Department Geography Nicolo Jimenez explores through his work the intersection between economy and ecology, groundbreaking the concept of ‘climate finance’ and its role in achieving net-zero on the global scale.

Jimenez will be presenting a talk titled Last Mile Sustainability: Exploring the Contradictory Spaces of Green Municipal Bonsds 0n March 27 at Coach House, Green College, UBC

Big Tech and urban influence

From the beginning of his undergraduate studies, Jimenez was hooked on the role of the city and its intersections with technology and people. Particularly interested in Big Tech and urban governance, he affirms that companies like Alphabet [Google] and Amazon have influenced the development of the city and given rise to an emerging concept known as ‘platform capitalism’, whereas these platforms, Internet-based or otherwise, can stimulate economic growth by servicing a space where goods, information and the needs of the people can freely interact. “Platform capitalism hits on this new emergence of especially tech companies using this model to facilitate profits,” he says. Uber, for instance, provides a unique platform for both drivers and travellers, involving themselves in all aspects of commuting, from sending and receiving packages to food delivery.

Jimenez touches on the similarities of this model to the public space and its connection to climate finance. Mentioning that the city emits much more than the rural area, he explains that traditional colonialism and extractivism have been playing out in the industrial environment.

Nicolo Jimenez, PhD student in the Department of Geography, UBC | Photo courtesy of UBC

“We can’t have a conversation about climate change without talking about historical imperialism,” he says. “Climate change [in itself] is a defect of historical power relations. It’s always been embedded in power struggles, who is emitting and who is extracting.”

Through his work, Jimenez looks at climate finance as a means to accelerate a transition towards a net-zero society. He likens it to a paradox – whereas the city is responsible for most of the Greenhouse-Gas Emissions (GHGs), Canadian governments are asking municipalities to stand on the front lines of climate evolution – this with less time, less fiscal resources and more budget cuts than ever before. ForJimenez, his problematic is searching for the role that climate finance plays from either the public or private sector in evolving cities and its platforms with the goal of fostering resiliency for future generations.

Throughout his work, Jimenez seeks to link economy and ecology together. To do this, he remarks that society misrepresents the two. “Historically, and even nowadays, people place the two as competing. Protect the economy or the environment,” he says, as if one couldn’t have their cake and eat it too. By bringing perspectives and people together through platform capitalism, Jimenez believes that cities can achieve net-zero all the while stimulating economic growth en masse. He also clarifies that economy and ecology go hand and hand, and that the government can not solve one without the other at the same time – rather, humanity needs to view these problems from a holistic standpoint.

The way forward

“I wake up every day to build community whether that be in classrooms or at the dining table. In order to solve the most pressing problems of our day, we need more people around the table,” he says when asked what the next step might be.

As if to provide a pathway to follow, Jimenez outlines the need to strengthen trust in our institutions and decipher our issues through a four-pillar philosophy; economic, social, political and environmental conversations need to take place where global citizens of all walks of life can contribute and have their voices heard. Jimenez is a firm believer in ‘nothing about us without us’, championing the passing of the proverbial microphone to empower historically marginalized and oppressed voices for the good of the planet.