Progress at COP27 will be tough as incumbent powers continue to call the shots

write Peter Newell and Guy Edwards

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

As the UN climate change talks or “COP27” get underway in Egypt, Guy Edwards, PhD student in the School of Global Studies, sat down with his supervisor, Peter Newell, Professor of International Relations, to discuss global and national climate politics. Here’s three key takeaways from their conversation.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

Without a power shift away from fossil fuel actors, global polluting elites and state actors working to maintain the status quo, ambitious climate action will remain elusive.

  • Newell’s last book, Power Shift, makes the case that in addition to major changes in technologies, markets, institutions and behaviours, a shift in power relations between and within countries and across political actors and societies are required to confront the climate and ecological crises.
  • While the scale of the challenge to secure a just transition to sustainable economies is staggering, encouragingly, there are cracks in the armour of incumbent powers and corporations, which can be exploited. There are many ways to deepen those cracks such as pressure from employees and shareholder activism, tighter regulations, legal challenges, and direct action by activists.
  • Another way is to weaken the fossil fuel industries’ social licence to operate. For example, activists are calling for British Cycling to cancel its new partnership with Shell, which is seen as a way for the oil major to maintain its legitimacy.
  • We also need to challenge fossil fuel actors’ arguments they are ideally placed to deliver national priorities such as energy security or job creation. For instance, the International Energy Agency reported recently that clean energy jobs now outnumber those in fossil fuels and show the greatest potential for future growth.
  • Fossil fuels companies appear rattled. Following years of climate denial and sowing doubt, they are now putting together net zero plans, which are full of loopholes and rely heavily on carbon offsets. But the fact they are acting suggests that ground is being gained and they have realized that doing nothing is no longer an option.

The proximity of fossil fuel interests to political power is a major issue as demonstrated by the recent comments by UK Climate Minister, Graham Stuart who said that fracking and oil drilling is “good for the environment” and economy.

  • In response, Newell and UCL Professor Paul Ekins debunked these claims in a letter to The Guardian raising various points such as the International Energy Agency stating that there can be no new oil, gas and coal projects if we are to achieve the 1.5C goal and that new fossil fuel projects will lock in dependency on infrastructure that will become increasingly obsolete as the UK decarbonizes.
  • One of the subtexts to these comments by Stuart is the narrative by fossil fuel actors and their supporters to use the energy crisis, driven largely by the war in Ukraine, as an opportunity to produce more fossil fuels under the pretext of energy security.
  • This assertion is weak since in the UK most new oil wells need a decade to begin producing. A far better route would be to scale up investment in renewables combined with reductions in energy demand through home insulation, heat pumps and support for public transport. This approach would allow the UK to reduce its dependency on foreign regimes, which are often not outlined with our values.

The Support for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty continues to build including from Vanuatu, the European Parliament, and the World Health Organisation.

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that coal, oil, and gas are responsible for 86% of all carbon dioxide emissions in the past decade. The Paris Agreement does not reference fossil fuels and at present there is no global binding mechanism to limit fossil fuel production. While the commitments made by states to reduce fossil fuel consumption are encouraging, they are unlikely to deliver major reductions. For instance, the G20 and Multilateral Development Banks, are still spending at least US$55 billion per year on supporting fossil fuels abroad compared with US$29 billion for renewable energy projects.
  • A Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty would aim to phase out fossil fuels, support dependent economies, workers and communities to diversify away from fossil fuels, ensure  access to renewable energy globally and promote a just transition. Such a treaty would be complementary to the Paris Agreement, which has enough work to do on advancing mitigation, loss and damage, finance, and adaptation.
  • Countries in the Global South with newly discovered fossil fuel reserves should not feel threatened by such a treaty. These countries would not be expected to relinquish their resources for some time with the focus on OECD and other countries that would have to act first. As part of the treaty, a global transition fund would be created to support countries in the Global South to achieve a just transition.
  • A dedicated space to look specifically at fossil fuel production phase out and a just transition is gaining traction in part due to some countries’ frustration that the Paris process does not address this issue directly. Given the energy transition is unfolding in different parts of the world at various speeds, but also in quite a disorderly, unjust, disruptive fashion due to market volatility and war, the treaty would offer an institutional forum to tackle some of those issues in an equitable way.
  • Within countries, it is important to address some of the assumptions around developing fossil fuels and their supposed benefits for poverty reduction. The literature on the resource curse shows that poor people within those countries often do not really benefit. In fact, quite the reverse because when people are paying taxes, they feel like they have a say over public spending. However, in some states there is less concern about being accountable to taxpayers as fossil fuel rents are so high, which can breed corruption and a lack of transparency.
  • Some fossil fuel producers are beginning to consider the dangers of a disorderly transition, the threat of stranded assets and potential risks for public finance in a decarbonized world. The case for a more orderly exit, where there is scope for compensation, financing, and technological support, which would be included under a treaty, is getting stronger. Lastly, a look at the terms of trade or debt relief is necessary as one of the key drivers for countries to exploit fossil fuel reserves is to pay off debts.

Follow Peter Newell and Guy Edwards on Twitter who will be following developments at COP27 over the next couple of weeks.

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2022 Global Resistance module students launch solidarity campaign with Indigenous struggle against extractivism

write Global Studies students Helena Müllenbach Martínez and Lotte Jaeger

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

When taking the final year module on Global Resistance, I was particularly looking forward to the unit on ‘Strategic Use of Law.’ I had spent the previous year working as a research assistant on a project run by the Global Resistance convenor Lara Montesinos Coleman, interviewing grassroots social movement organizers in Colombia, where I come from, about what it meant to use law strategically against the plunder caused by transnational corporations. We spoke about the extent to which using litigation could be a useful tool in their struggle for justice, but also about the law’s (many inherent) limitations for addressing systemic forms of harm, with their roots in colonialism.

For instance, the Yukpa Indigenous people, located in the Serrania del Perija in northern Colombia, are at the frontline of resistance against extractivist megamining companies such as Drummond and Glencore. The contamination from megamining projects in their territories has resulted in the death of over 42 Indigenous children between 2018 and 2019, due to malnutrition, as well as a loss of territory of 10,000 hectares of ancestral land. Water sources, that are essential for the survival of the Yukpas, continue to be cut off by the mining activities of various Western multinationals.

In February 2022, the UCU strikes were in full swing and most of our classes at university got cancelled. We were lucky that, from the first day of the Global Resistance class, ‘community’ was at the forefront of learning. Having been encouraged to form study groups, our seminar group repeatedly got together to discuss how we could collectively build transformative movements, and we felt empowered to organize our own campaign building on our Global Resistance module discussions. The week before we graduated, we invited a broad range of activists and climate justice movements to join a public event and workshop, entitled ‘Resisting Killer Corporations: Strategic Use of Law against Extractivism’, at Brighton’s ONCA gallery, with the support of the Centre for Global Political Economy and the School of Global Studies, via the Higher Education Impact Fund, collaboration with War on Want and with Yukpa, in Colombia.

As students, we discussed how the ‘rule of law’ is often immensely distant from justice. While I was in Colombia, lawyers told me that ‘despite [my] profession [I] do not believe in the law’1. Community organizers explained how ‘if the struggle remains in the judicial realm alone, you are doing a great favour to the corporation’2, as the power rooted in a larger unified social movement becomes essential when the use of litigation alone fails. This raises the question discussed at the workshop and in Coleman et al.’s book Righting Corporate Wrongs: when justice is being sought in a framework that has been built in the interests of capital rather than the people, can formal litigation ever help unveil and dismantle the violent forces beneath it? The book, which was co-produced with social movement leaders and lawyers in Colombia, describes how the corporation itself is a structural form of impunity, but also observes how social movements ‘use legal activism, not just to achieve remedy or protect legally-defined rights, but in the context of struggles for alternatives to capitalism/neoliberalism/neocolonialism’ (Coleman et al, 2019:42). The book also proposes the use of ‘strategic litigation’.

This possibility of using the law strategically whilst being aware of its inherent limitations allows us to create a campaign in solidarity with the Indigenous Yukpa community in Colombia, which we launched after the workshop.

Currently, the Yukpas are about to file a claim with the Constitutional Court, which is highlighting how extractivist practices have resulted in the physical and cultural genocide of their people. Multinationals such as Prodeco/Glencore and Drummond have created ‘zones of security’ that subsidize Colombian paramilitary squads in the area, making judicial or social resistance extremely dangerous for the community.

Nevertheless, the Yukpa’s resistance remains strong. Esneda Saavedra, the governor of the Yukpas, explained how “[We] maintained an Indigenous Guard. The paramilitaries wanted to disappear the Yukpa peoples, but we had a strong resistance; if they touch one Yukpa, they touch us all. We fight with a force that is spiritual, as well as with our bows and arrows. (…) Our ancestral knowledge will never be forgotten; it will always be there and they will never invade our minds. This knowledge is the biggest protection for our territory, and it will always be ours”3.

The Yukpa’s legal action highlights the massive discrepancy between the judicial rights of Indigenous peoples and their implementation. Despite their rightful use of the ILO’s 169 convention, which is meant to guarantee Indigenous peoples’ right for previous, free and informed consultation for extractivist projects in their territories, members of the community recall how “[We] were never consulted. They come to consult us when the damage is done. They diverted the river, it used to be a river for fishing, now there are no fish but sardines. They took that away from us, they diverted it, did whatever they wanted with the river”4.

Whilst mining activities in Colombia might feel far away, we are far from disconnected from the struggle of the Yukpas. Not only are the headquarters of these of multinational corporations, such as Glencore and Drummond, located just outside our doorstep, but we are also daily consumers of products made with the oils and minerals Glencore extracts from Indigenous lands. Most fundamentally, however, we all share the same home: We all live on, though, and from the same earth, which is a sensitive and fragile organism in itself, and whose destruction at one place has devastating consequences for its overall balance and thus, the wellbeing and survival of its inhabitants everywhere.

Based on this inherent interconnectivity and co-dependence, the Yukpas extend an invitation: “Today, Indigenous peoples have a legacy in the world, and from the Yukpa world we can say that we want to invite all those people to join in the territorial defence. Our mother nature has life, and we must take care of her, we must respect her, and this what I invite you to do”5. Thus, our aim is to fight hand in hand with the Yukpas, in order to hold Glencore accountable.

We have teamed up with people that are directly connected to the struggle such as Edward Alvarez, a Colombian sociologist that has assisted the Yukpa community for over 20 years, and Francisco Ramirez Cuellar, the lawyer that is supporting the anti-colonial strategic litigation that will be put forth by the community. We will work with the community directly, as well as organizations such as HumanConet, a Colombian-based NGO which creates audiovisual material of the resistance and runs various campaigns with the communities. The network of this strategy is ever expanding, as we seek to base our actions on the demands of the communities at the frontlines.

Our launch event for the campaign began with Colombian Cumbia music, as one of the reasons why Colombian resistance is so powerful is that it is rooted in collective joy. It was followed by an inspiring panel of speakers: we learnt from Lara Montesinos Coleman, about the possibilities and pitfalls of the strategic use of law to challenge the pervasive harm caused by the extractivist operations of multinational corporations. She was followed by Gilberto Torres, a former Colombian Union Leader who survived a brutal abduction and torture by paramilitaries for his political activities, who is currently exiled in Venezuela. Gilberto’s court case against BP in 2012 highlighted some of the limitations of litigation, as the respective judges concluded that there was no definite link between the testimonials of paramilitaries, stating that they had been paid by ‘the company’ for Gilberto’s kidnapping, and the conduct of the defendant BP and their Colombian subsidiary OCENSA. Our closing speaker was Sebastian Muñoz, Senior Programmes Officer at War on Want, who spoke about developing justice-oriented approaches to tackle the social and ecological crises, as well as the avenues of hope with the first progressive government in Colombia’s history.

Finally, we facilitated workshops that were divided into themed groups such as ‘Social Movements’, ‘Indigenous Rights’, and ‘Changing Corporate Behaviour’. In the groups formed, we brainstormed about developing a powerful and effective strategy together.

Over 30 people have signed up to take part in the campaign, with the aim of growing our network and develop a viable strategy in cooperation with the Yukpas, fighting for the corporate decolonisation of Indigenous lands, long term reparations, and for global socioeconomic justice.

Alongside the Sussex Centre for Global Political Economy, we have organised this online event on Indigenous justice and we are looking forward to ‘seeing’ you there!

In near future, we will be raising funds to bring Yukpa leaders to the AGM of Glencore, working alongside London Mining Network.

Find out more about our initiatives:


1Interview with Francisco Ramirez Cuellar, 2020 (my own translation)
2Interview with Felipe Rodriguez, 2020 (my own translation)
3Interview with Esneda Saavedra, the governor of the six Yukpa cabildos, via the Colombian-based NGO Human Conet. For more information visit:
4Interview with the members of the Yukpa community filmed and transcribed by the NGO Human Conet (2021)

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38 years on – occupation is a crime

writes Law with International Relations student Kuljit Kaur

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

India is the world’s largest “democracy”, where human rights hold no importance. It is known that the Indian government responds with violence which includes but is not limited to police brutality, extrajudicial killings, disappearances, third degree torture, rape, and various other inhumane treatments.

This week marks 38 years since the attack on Darbar Sahib. Sikhs worldwide remember 1984 Sikh Genocide as they demand for justice till this day.

In June 1984, the PM of India, Indira Gandhi ordered an attack on the Darbar Sahib (known as the Golden Temple), including the destruction of the Akal Takht – the centre of Sikh sovereignty. This attack was backed and planned with the support of Margaret Thatcher, then PM of United Kingdom.

Planning for the military action had begun two and a half years prior to the attack, including an invasion on a replica of Darbar Sahib. Sikhs from across India came to Darbar Sahib to commemorate the martyrdom of the 5th Guru of Sikhs, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Knowing that the congregation would have been expected to be high in numbers, 150,000 of Indian army troops were deployed to kill innocent Sikhs resulting in the biggest massacre of Sikh Pilgrims. Forty other Sikh shrines were simultaneously attacked.

On 13th June 1984, the Guardian reported that “it was a virtual massacre. A large number of women, children and pilgrims were gunned down”.

The Indian Army gained control of Darbar Sahib, with the help of a media blackout to cause maximum casualties. Innocent children were killed, the youngest, Manpreet Singh – only 18 days old shot by the Indian Army. Thousands of Sikh men were tortured and burnt alive. Code-named operation, Operation Shudikaran was ordered by the Indian state for the Indian army to rape thousands of Sikh women so they can, and this is a direct quote from Brig. RP Sinha Indian Army: “we’re going to take all the women to our camp and there we’re going to create a new breed for Punjab.” This was quoted on March 8 1991, International Women’s day.

Human rights violations and atrocities continue to occur throughout India. In an attempt to silence minorities’ voices, and the truth, India infringes on the Right to Freedom of Expression and the Right to Freedom of Press by threatening to arrest those that speak against the government of India. The censorship and harassment of media outlets includes numerous social media accounts being shadow banned, deleted or restricted within India. 

For Sikhs, their struggle is one of self-determination. Khalistan is the name given to an independent Sikh state, a democratic sovereign country – not only a homeland for Sikhs but a sheltering place for the oppressed. The Indian state media has demonised Khalistan, labelling anyone that speaks against human rights atrocities within India as terrorists. It’s important that minorities don’t play into the fear mongering of Indian state media and push back against the demonisation of Khalistan by challenging the Indian narrative.

A campaign launched by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), an international advocacy group, aims to liberate Indian occupied Punjab through a non-binding Punjab referendum by gaging the will of the Punjabi people with regards to re-establishing Punjab as a nation state. The voting for the referendum began from London, in October 2021, at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, and moved to Italy in May 2022, with various other locations to be covered in the coming months. It was recorded that over 30,000 people came to vote in London.

Voting at Queen Elizabeth Centre II, London, United Kingdom

Until independence is obtained, Sikhs including other minorities will be subjected to genocidal violence under Indian occupation.

Self-determination is a right.

Occupation is a crime.

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Why restoring EU’s ‘Energy and Defence’ will create an opportunity for the future of the European Union

writes Manfredi Morello (MA International Security 2018). Manfredi Morello is a Solicited Rating Team Coordinator at Standard Ethics.

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia has led the EU to act in a coherent and united way. The European Defence’s joint procurement capability consortium (EDCC), and the Energy Policy’s renewed Plan (RePowerEU), have become the hallmarks of Von der Leyen’s commission ending mandate. United member states have shown their effectiveness, despite the current decision-making process narrowing the EU’s room for maneuvre.

2022 marks the Conference on the Future of Europe, and all the suspended policies are on the verge of being transformed. The war in Ukraine, however, has urged member states to relaunch two specific policy areas: Energy and Defence.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Despite the tragic outcome of the war at the eastern borders of Europe, Europeans have been acting cohesively, underlining the importance of standing firmly together. Firstly, we saw how rapidly member states came together to put sanctions in place. Then, we observed a swift policy-change concerning energy, perhaps the most ambitious plan since the European Coal and Steel Community: RePowerEU. A plan seeing member states pooling energy resources in order to give a firm response to Russia’s oil and gas retaliation. The plan will preserve the Commission’s priorities towards carbon-neutrality, progressively reshaping the EU’s dependence from Russia’s commodities. But, most importantly, member states will pool their resources to achieve this. A lesson from the past, for a better tomorrow. This perfectly fits with the planned Conference on the Future of Europe’s federalist current.

It should be considered that international organisations will undoubtedly put pressure on EU member states’ defence capabilities, in three ways, in the next quarter: Firstly, the EU is about to issue a general purpose bond framework to sustain the armaments’ supply chain towards Ukraine. This debt issuance programme must be seen as if the EU were to issue peacekeeping bonds for defence and aerospace companies, whose controlling shareholders are mostly in member states (e.g. Leonardo and Fincantieri in Italy, Thales and Airbus in France). Furthermore,  European NATO allies will push the percentage of GDP defence spending from the current amount to NATO’s requested target (i.e. 2% of GDP). Finally, the EU is going to launch a public procurement ecosystem to pool member states’ armament capabilities: the European Defence Capability Consortium (EDCC). The premise must be: “Invest together, better and in Europe” – as recently highlighted by Commissioner Thierry Breton. All these elements put together, are likely to boost the European Security and Defence Policy. The EU’s budget is allocating 500 million euros for the next two years to the EDCC, through which member states will jointly procure their armament programmes. 

Although a joint defence effort is required by the EU, the main European aerospace and defence companies will be under monitoring, due to public and institutional debates on ethical grounds.

Independent sustainability ratings agency Standard Ethics, recently expressed its opinion on the sustainability outlook of the Aerospace and Defence industry. Defence companies have been on the Agency’s radar. On the one hand, the Agency invited the market to reflect on how these companies could align with international sustainability standards, as they will inevitably make more and more profit in the upcoming years. Standard Ethics has also invited the market to review SRI strategies such as sectorial exclusions, given the international organisations’ new agenda.

The past months have taught us a crucial lesson – that Energy and Defence will go hand-in-hand. At the outset of the Russian invasion in Ukraine, there was an overall confusion between Ethics and Sustainability. Now, we must be aware that ethical exclusions are no longer sustainable. The strategic choice the EU is making for future generations rests upon the single market capacity to finance these plans. Without a cohesive common security and defence policy, the EU will not find its belated space in the international order, and its growing demand for peace-keeping cannot be guaranteed. Without a single market for energy, future generations will struggle due to lack of light as well as heat and clean energy.

It is with the utmost confidence that we observe  the recent policy developments concluding that Energy and Defence together are inclined to make the EU an independent super-power. They will fasten the EU to the transatlantic alliance, while formally distancing it from China at the same time. The sole obstacle on the road to a better outcome is the confirmation of a Qualified Majority Vote, for all the decision-making procedures inside the European Council. Until this obstacle has been overcome, we will keep on seeing how a single-member state can easily oppose the progress of a prosperous and ambitious Europe.

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‘Fire on the other side of the sea’: domestic supply chain problems and other ‘migrant issues’

writes Geography student Yusuke Yasuda

*The views in the following article are the personal views of the author and are not an official position of the School.*

I’m not sure whether this has a positive or negative connotation, but I have been experiencing the impact of supply chain (or ‘migrant issues’!) daily since I’ve come to the UK to study migration.

Part of my routine, since last September, has been watching local news programs every morning on YouTube. Many of which have been repeatedly reporting domestic supply chain problems, which has motivated me to grab my camera and pop to my local petrol station one day in October. Once there, I saw yellow signs on all petrol pumps saying ‘Sorry, out of use’. Cars were coming and going, with drivers looking more and more disappointed by the situation.

Signs on petrol pumps ©Yusuke Yasuda

On a different day around that period, I dropped by a supermarket on campus on a whim after class, only to find most shelves empty, with signs saying, ‘Sorry for the impact on availability today’. I couldn’t even purchase plain pasta or some juice. These are only a couple of examples of the supply chain problems UK faces these days.

A sign on an empty shelf ©Yusuke Yasuda

As far as I know, supply chain problems are deeply related to a lack of migrant workers caused post-Brexit which, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, is only going to be getting worse. The country faces labour shortages, including lorry drivers, who deliver dairy necessities nationwide.

As one of the individuals affected by this unstable situation (and an international student), I wonder whether the current state of our society and economy are how Brexit supporters imagined life when voted out. Without immigrants, who would help the country operate ‘business as usual’, ensuring daily-life stability?

Empty Port of Dover December 2021 ©Yusuke Yasuda

This phenomenon, in my opinion, could be a good lesson for my home country, Japan. Our government has been attempting to increase the number of migrant workers in response to its chronic shortages of workforce, the lower birth rates, and the fast-pace ageing of the general population. As the government has clarified their plans to welcome more labour migrants to help maintain a stable routine and economy, it seems that to them, immigrants are more like resources, rather than citizens. A win-win situation would be ideal, but migrants tend to be utilized as a political target to form certain public opinions.

As a Japanese saying goes: ‘The fire is on the other side of the sea’, meaning: ‘It’s not my business’, in a nutshell. I hope Japan takes a different approach towards the issue currently occurring ‘on the other side of the sea’.

Fortunately, I’m in the perfect environment to study migration. My course, daily life and international course mates have motivated me to investigate the matter further. I am a firm believer in ‘history will repeat itself’… unless we learn from it – and take all necessary precautions.

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