An IAS Fellowship Seminar by Dr Christiaan De Beukelaer (University of Melbourne)
Image courtesy of Viktor Hesse on Unsplash
Global trade has always been a deeply unbalanced affair, relying on unequal effort and reward, both in terms of labour and resources. Rich people consume excessively, enabled by global trade that effectively offloads significant labour and environmental burdens onto the world’s poorest. As a result, the world’s richest 10% are collectively responsible for fully 52% of global carbon emissions. Even if the number of people living in the most destitute forms of poverty has decreased significantly since the 1980s, the gap between the richest and the poorest continues to widen.
None of this is new. But the urgent call to decarbonise the shipping industry might make the divide between the richest and poorest even bigger. This is for two main reasons. First, it is global maritime transport that enables rich people to consume far more than what is available locally, by externalising not only labour, but also environmental costs. Second, the poor also rely on shipped goods to supply food, medication, and energy to ensure they can live their lives in dignity. Though the latter ship less per capita but pay higher prices per tonne of goods shipped.
The decarbonisation of shipping will almost certainly increase the cost of maritime transport, which will disproportionally affect the poorest. At the same time, global wealth has been accumulated in the successive waves of dispossession and exploitation through colonialism, empire, and corporate greed. Indeed, neither colonialism nor slavery across oceans would have been possible without ships. The question, Dr Christiaan De Beukelaer will hence address in this paper is whether or not the energy transition should be treated as an opportunity to rectify the environmental and economic wrongs inflicted upon colonies and former colonies. He will ask, in effect, whether the shipping industry should be decolonised. In doing so, he will draw connections between the environmental regulation of maritime transport (MARPOL) and the broader legal and normative underpinnings of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Places are limited and so any academic colleagues or students interested in attending in person should register here.