May was one of the busiest months of the year for the Environmental Justice Research Unit and its members. We hosted three events in the School, including the final speaker of the New Materialist Reflections on the Anthropocene series for this academic year – Professor Teresa Dillon (University West of England, Bristol). This is not the end of the EcoSocial conversation however, in December we will be welcoming Professor Jane Bennett and Professor William Conolly for an intense two-day visit and series of events. We will be circulating further information on this very soon. And in other news…
PhD Presentations and Publications
Over the past month, EJRU PhD students have been taking up invitations to present their research at international and national conferences and networking events.
Caer Smyth attended a conference at Stanford University for early career empirical researchers on 10-11 May. During the event, Caer presented the first analysis chapter of her thesis, Tick the box and move on: compartmentalised argument in the M4CAN inquiry and its impact on the environment. In keeping with US law and society scholarship, Caer noted the strong focus on quantitative research at the conference; being only one of two ethnographers participating. Caer thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and was reassured by her discussant, Deborah Sivas, who identified similar challenges in her work with the environmental law clinic at Stanford.
Valeria Tolis also attended an event designed for early career scholars: The Climate Change Research Group Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher Development Workshop. The one-day event took place at the Centre of Climate Justice at Glasgow Caledonian University. The aim of the workshop was to support the development of key skills for critical climate change research, and it included sessions on Funding and Income generation, two paper sessions – where Valeria presented her research – and a session on Networking and Career Management. Valeria identified some very interesting discussions during the workshop, including one on how easy it is to receive funding for certain types of critical research, and how to deal with some of the ethical dilemmas of combining academic life with environmental issues.
Valeria and Mulugetta Sisay also presented their PhD research at a lunchtime seminar on COP 24 in the School of Law and Politics, here at Cardiff University. Speaking alongside myself and Jen Allan, we explored why we attend the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), what we observed at COP 24, and the progress made towards creating the Paris rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement.
PhD member, Sam Varvastian, had publishing success in April with his article on The Human Right to a Clean and Healthy Environment in Climate Change Litigation, which was published in Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law & International Law Research Paper series. In May, Sam also participated and presented in a GW4 Climate Resilience workshop in Bristol.
Brexit and the environment
Brexit continues to be an important research focus for many members of EJRU. The group was well represented at the Environmental Principles and Governance in Wales Post EU Exit consultation event, held at Cardiff City Hall on 10 May. The multi-stakeholder consultation day, led by Professor Bob Lee (Birmingham University), explored government, scholarly and NGO perspectives on the principles and governance mechanisms required to further develop and coordinate Wales’ approach to sustainability and environmental protection after Britain leaves the EU.
In April, Ben Pontin published his book The Environmental Case for Brexit: A Socio-Legal Perspective, with Hart Publishing. On 16 May, he presented the central argument to the Oxford University Environmental Law Discussion Group, chaired by Liz Fisher. We’re going to be hearing a bit more about what inspired Ben’s book-length contribution to the debate in a forthcoming blog.
Ludivine Petetin has been making an important contribution to discussions on UK agricultural policy after Brexit. She presented at a conference on UK Agriculture Policy: Sustainability in post-Brexit Britain on the 3 May on the topic of ‘Agriculture and devolution’. Later this month her co-authored report for the Soil Association on ‘Setting the bar for a Green Brexit in food and farming’ will be launched at Westminster. Ludivine will also be giving evidence to the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee of the National Assembly for Wales as part of their inquiry into environmental principles and governance on 12 June. Ludivine will be in Westminster again in July to attend an Insight event on ‘The Future of Farming: A National Conference’ and will discuss agricultural policy in Wales. She will also present at the Royal Welsh Show for a UKELA event (hosted by the Wildlife Trust) on agriculture and environmental protection on 25 July.
Special Section on Methodological Innovation Published
You might recall that about a year ago I blogged on a methods workshop that I co-organised with Dr Alice Vadrot (University of Vienna) and Dr Kimberley Marion Suiseeya (Northwestern University). The aim of the workshop was to bring together scholars interested in and actively developing conceptual and methodological innovations for the study of global environmental agreement making. The event was hosted by Berkeley University, thanks to the support of Professor Kate O’Neill and funded by the School of Law and Politics Research Support Scheme, and the Austrian Science Fund (FWF).
I am very pleased that the articles from this workshop have now been published in a special section on Methodological Innovation in the Study of Global Environmental Agreement Making, in Global Environmental Politics. The articles aim to address three questions that motivated the project: What constitutes a site of global environmental agreement making? Which actors and forms of power shape negotiation dynamics and final agreed text? What concepts and methods do we need to adapt and develop in order to study these dynamics and their effects?
In our article, on the struggle over biocultural diversity in the approval of the IPBES Pollination Assessment in 2016, Alice Vadrot and I explore how delegates roles and interventions become solidified over time, which is readily observable during the approval of the summary for policymakers. Inspired by the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, we introduce the notion of a weighted concept to explore how this position-taking imprints on the final agreed text by documenting one particular controversy – the struggle over biocultural diversity. This conceptual innovation enables us to examine the relationship between knowledge and symbolic power in negotiating processes, and examine the potential for Indigenous and Local Knowledge to reshape global environmental order.
Alice and I will be launching the next phase of our methods project with an international workshop in Vienna in September, which will focus on how we can translate these methodological innovations into a guide for those new to the study of global environmental negotiations. The overarching aim of this method’s focus is to transform how we collectively study global environmental agreement making, and we hope that this guide will catalyse the next generation of research in this direction.
Jen Allan’s commentary on the TripleCop published in The Conversation
Jen attended the TripleCOP in May to follow developments and share the latest news about chemicals and wastes governance. The TripleCOP is an experiment in global environmental governance – where three legally-distinct treaties – the Basel, Rotterdam, and Stockholm Conventions on hazardous chemicals and wastes – convene their decision making bodies at the same time, and even negotiate issues “of joint concern” concurrently. As Jen describes:
Chemicals and wastes issues are fundamental to our daily lives – from the food we eat, the products we use and wear, and how those products are disposed of. The human health and environmental implications are vast, but these issues are often overlooked. At this TripleCOP, the hazardous wastes treaty – the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes – took an important decision on plastic waste. Through the decision, developing countries will have the right to prior informed consent regarding shipments of low-value, hard to recycle plastics (such as water bottles and single use plastic containers) and they will have the right to say no to importing these wastes. This decision matters. For the first time, the UN has taken global action on plastics. It also means, as I argue in the Conversation, that countries with the least capacity to manage these plastic wastes will have more information, and the right to refuse them.
You can find out more about the TripleCOP and Jen’s commentary on the outcome in her article in The Conversation.
In other news
The Permanent People’s Tribunal Session on Human Rights, Fracking and Climate Change has completed its work. Professor Anna Grear was involved with the inception, design and conceptualisation of this international tribunal, with Professor Tom Kerns. The Advisory Opinion delivered by the judges recommends the international ban of fracking. The tribunal took the novel step of embracing a new juridical ontology, one reflected in the Declaration on Human Rights and Climate Change, which Anna drafted with other scholars from the GNHRE, based on her theoretical work on alternative juridical ontologies and the future.
Anna’s most recent publication: ‘Personhood, jurisdiction and injustice: law, colonialities and the global order’ (2019) 10/1 Journal of Human Rights and the Environment 86-117 (with Elena Blanco).
On 15 May, Ricardo Pereira presented a paper on ‘Environmental Security in the High Seas: The Quest for Criminalisation, Interstate Cooperation and Effective Enforcement’ at the Theory in International Law workshop at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL), London.
On 20 May, Richard Caddell appeared on TRT World’s Panel discussion programme Round Table, discussing problems of overfishing and marine environmental protection, which can be viewed here. On the same day, Richard also presented on “Fish and International Law: What Next for the UK?” at a Young UKELA event on “Fish and the Law”, hosted at Francis Taylor Building, Inner Temple, London.