Global Criminality and Green Capitalism: The UnJust Transition
Prof. Christine Schwöbel-Patel (University of Warwick)
Please join us for our inaugural event for our series on 'Political Economy of Global Criminology' co-organized by the Global Criminal Justice Hub and Southernising Criminology
Chaired by Dr Leila Ullrich & Iulia-Cristiana Vatau (University of Oxford)
The climate crisis has prompted a debate on the role of law in addressing the preservation of nature and protection of vulnerable peoples’ and communities affected by climate breakdown. Various policies and laws have been proposed and enacted to encourage and penalise consumers, businesses, and states into action. In the capitalist centre, policies are directed towards green investments and tax breaks through national and regional laws (the Biden administration’s Inflation Reduction Act or the EU’s Green Industrial Plan). These recent plans, which will see rapid demand and production for green technology and critical minerals, claim to rely less on extractivism from the Global South and more on ‘onshoring’. In international law, instruments have varied from multilateral agreements such as the Paris Agreement to climate finance instruments to the proposal for the recognition of the crime of ecocide. Here too, there is a growing attentiveness to the Global South as being most affected by the climate crisis, and contributing the least to it. Against this background, the victimisation of the natural world has emerged as a central concept when it comes to sanctions, offering the mirror image of providing nature with rights. This individualisation of nature, as awarded with rights, harmed and liberated by humans, is not only an anthropocentric view, as I will argue, it is also a tool for the continued protection of extractivism and settler colonialism. In the demands for criminalising the harming of nature lies a critical dislocation from the questions of land. Drawing on Glen Coulthard’s work on the politics of recognition, and Nick Estes’s work on the frontier, I will argue that the victimisation of nature draws heavily on the symbolic side of the law, hiding its material effects of (legalised) propertisation, exploitation and expropriation. The relationship between the so-called just transition, capitalism, and law emerges as a continuation of global criminality in a colonial key, namely as an unjust transition.
Christine Schwöbel-Patel is Professor of Law at the University of Warwick and currently a Leverhulme Fellow (2023-2024) based at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Christine's research spans the areas of international law, global constitutionalism, global governance, and critical pedagogy. She adopts a critical approach to the dominant framing of mass atrocity, humanitarianism, and legal institutions through the lens of political economy and aesthetics. Her current research, supported by a Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship and a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, concerns the political economy of extractivism in 'post'-colonial spaces and the international laws that support wealth concentration. She is particularly interested in extractivism for 'green' energy. The project is titled 'Legal Pipelines of the Green Transition'.
Christine's publications include two monographs, 'Marketing Global Justice: The Political Economy of International Criminal Law' (Cambridge University Press 2021) and 'Global Constitutionalism in International Legal Perspective' (Brill 2011), and an edited collection 'Critical Approaches to International Criminal Law: An introduction' (Routledge 2014). Her co-edited collection 'Aesthetics and Counter-Aesthetics of International Justice' will be out with Counterpress in 2023. Christine has published in journals such as the European Journal of International Law, the London Review of International Law, the Leiden Journal of International Law, the Journal of International Criminal Justice, and the International Journal of Constitutional Law.