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The Idea

Raw materials and climate change have a peculiar relationship: On the one hand, societies depend on raw materials. Energy is generated from raw materials, and raw materials provide the inputs for production and consumption. Raw materials remain one of the most important lubricants of the global economy. More than 100 countries specialize in the extraction and export of raw materials. Natural resources furthermore directly impact the livelihoods of at least a quarter of the world’s population. Without raw materials, the current world is unthinkable. On the other hand, the extraction of raw materials is “dirty”. Natural areas are destroyed by raw material production and global warming is fueled in particular by fossil raw materials. The dependence on raw materials reveals further problems, as is not only evident in crises within raw material exporting countries, but is also reflected not least in the current geopolitical situation.

It is already apparent that the global importance of raw materials will continue to increase in the coming years. Efforts to make the energy transition sustainable and thus to help shape climate change require that raw materials be granted a high priority. The desired energy transition for the purpose of a sustainable climate policy will massively change the raw material basis of the world economy. This will not only mean deep transformation processes for the countries of the Global North, but will also have serious consequences for many countries of the South that depend on raw material exports. This challenges existing structure of the international system and the global economy.

The lecture series will address this problem context and approach the issues first from the perspective of Latin America and the Maghreb. The contributions focus on the relationship between natural resources and climate change from empirical, regional and/or theoretical perspectives. They are linked by not only analyzing the risks of this relation, but also by exploring possibilities and opportunities for future change.

The Program

Since the “discovery” of the New World by Columbus, the development of Latin America has been heavily affected by European action. The exchange between the two regions has always been ambivalent, characterized by dominance and dependence, but also by cooperation and mutual inspiration. In this context, raw natural materials have always played a central role in defining their interaction. Now, both regions are no strangers to climate change – a challenge they will face collectively, even if differently. Thus, this lecture explores the many historical conditions and discusses the current relations between the two regions in an attempt to provide an outlook of their complex relationship in the upcoming future.

More HERE.

The comprehensive inquiries of this lecture series about the connections between climate change, raw materials, the energy transition and the global economy will be addressed in this lecture through the lens of the Brazilian companies that are increasingly having to adapt to a CO2-regulated business world. Using Brazil as an example, the presentation will focus on the tensions between fossil fuels, accelerated deforestation, financial markets, national policies, and global climate governance. Embedded in the question of whether achieving the Paris Climate Goals is still plausible under current social conditions, we present our research approach to decarbonizing the economy and our results on Brazil as a case study. The research is conducted in the context of the Hamburg Cluster of Excellence “Climate, Climatic Change, and Society (CLICCS)”..

Climate and energy policies have geopolitical implications, whereas many geopolitical trends have an amplifying effect on climate and energy policies. The often postulated ‘Great Transformation’ is, therefore, also a geopolitical endeavor. In this context, Simon Dalby appropriately speaks of a “geopolitics of the Anthropocene.” This lecture takes up this context and explains which classical, but also critical perspectives exist on geopolitics and how these can help conceptualize the reciprocal influence of geopolitics on climate and energy policy and vice versa. Empirically, the presentation focuses on the geopolitical conflict potential regarding energy and climate policy measures. Here, the materiality of current energy transitions as well as the spatial demand of so-called negative emissions are discussed.

In the Middle East, oil and the rent income derived from its export characterize the Gulf monarchies as well as the Mashreq states, especially Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. In this context, the transnational rent distribution between the resource-rich but population-poor Gulf states and the resource-poor but population-rich Mashreq countries runs through two channels: budget remittances and investments by the Arab Gulf monarchies (and Iran in the case of Lebanon) to the Mashreq and labor migration in the opposite direction. Therefore, this lecture sets itself to two tasks. The first is to shed light on the formative power of oil extraction for the political economy of the world region. In doing so, it is important to emphasize that petrolism creates asymmetric interdependencies between states that have high petroleum rents and those that have little or no raw materials. The system of petrolism creates so-called semi-rentier states whose political economies resemble those of petroleum-rentier states in many ways. Second, the lecture addresses the question of what impact the energy transition has on petrolism in the Global South. As the energy transition reduces the demand for hydrocarbons, petrolism as a system is under pressure. So far, however, the system has proven resilient. The lecture argues that this is partly because the actors involved have adopted adjustment policies that keep pension levels high, which, in turn, has repercussions for the global economy.

Supply chain laws and certifications of raw materials are receiving more and more attention in the context of climate change and the energy transition. This is because the mining of lithium and cobalt, for example, which are needed for solar plants and wind turbines, is not infrequently associated with their immense ecological and social problems. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has half of the world’s cobalt reserves. Mining there involves the same exploitative and violent practices as for tin, tantalum, and gold (3TG) – the so-called “conflict minerals.” The European Union (EU) has had due diligence requirements in place for several years to prevent international trade from financing violence. The EU thus uses its trading power to enforce international peace, even if this leads to high prices for raw material imports. However, it is apparent that implementation costs primarily create disadvantages for small local producers, exacerbating global market unequal concentrations. In addition, stereotypical narratives about the global South and Africa, in particular, as a “barbaric” continent, are still reproduced. Therefore, using the example of the DRC, the lecture will explain power shifts between the Global North and South through supply chain laws and certification.

The lecture examines the impact of oil revenues on the size and income of the middle class in Iran. Following Kharas (2017), an absolute measure is used to define the middle class as those earning between $11 and $110 per day (2011 PPP). The study uses annual time series data for the period 1965-2017 and a vector autoregressive (VAR) model along with impulse response and variance decomposition analyses. The results show that the response of the middle class to positive oil income shocks in Iran is positive and significant. It is also shown that the channels of international non-oil trade, services sector, and macroeconomic development are important in understanding the relationship between oil income and the middle class in Iran. These results are robust to other channels related to oil income and the middle class, as well as alternative definitions of middle-class income based on relative measures from the Iranian Household Income and Expenditure Surveys.

Circular economy is a concept for sustainable resource management that aims to reduce environmental impacts caused by human activities. In times of increasingly noticeable climate change, circular economy offers a “toolbox” for innovation in the direction of a more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable world. This toolbox for the future has gained growing popularity in politics, business and civil society over the past ten years. At the same time, the impacts of circular economy initiatives on ecosystems and human well-being are still poorly explored or reflected.  This lecture will explore the potentials and risks of a circular economy for the sustainable management of raw materials and climate change.

Climate change is exacerbating the already pronounced water crisis in the Maghreb and multiplying the risks to food security, health and livelihoods. This also threatens key state functions such as protection and security (e.g., from floods and droughts), supply (e.g., with drinking water) and popular participation (e.g., in decisions about water infrastructure and distribution). In many places, this leads to sometimes violent protests as the population questions the legitimacy of their governments. At the same time, the region’s social contract are based on highly unequal and unsustainable water use in which an influential elite is allowed to extract unlimited amounts of groundwater for agriculture in many places while small farmers are underserved, and influential investors in tourism and other investment projects are inadequately regulated. Therefore, this lecture will explain why water governance is central to social contracts in the Maghreb and the risks, as well as opportunities, for inclusive development pathways that the climate change challenge entails. 

Some countries in Latin America were among the richest in the world as recently as the beginning of the 20th century. The continent was rich not only in income but also in raw materials. Increasingly, Latin America began to specialize in the export of these raw materials, however, by the middle of the 20th century, Latin America was still competing with East Asia for development advances. However, Latin America failed to diversify its blatant dependence on raw materials, either in production or in exports. This lecture discusses this persistence of raw material extractivism in Latin America. It traces incisive  developmental moments of extractivism and considers how Latin America is challenged by climate change and sustainability strategies in Europe. The presentation shows that inequality and issues of income distribution are important factors in explaining this relationship. Latin America has been too rich but at the same time too unequal to develop. If this issue is not addressed, Latin America will miss yet another opportunity to move away from commodity dependence.

“The world is on the brink,” with these alarming words, Antonio Guterres once again urged on the eve of the Glasgow climate conference that the omnipresent talk about the climate should finally be followed by action. The UN Secretary-General has every reason to be concerned, because the data on climate change are alarming. Although the world seemed to temporarily stand by due to the Corona pandemic, carbon emissions rose again in 2021 at an alarming rate to reach record levels in 2022. While there was a drop of about six percent in greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, it is of little consequence in terms of man-made global warming. Climate change continues to gather pace. The 1.5-degree global warming scenario and even the two-degree target are coming under threat.  Faced with this catastrophic development, the question arises as to the prospects of a socio-ecological transformation and hence of social conditions within which it is possible to achieve what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is also calling for – a global sustainability revolution. Have we already missed the chance or are there well-founded prospects for a successful transformation? Klaus Dörre will address these questions in his lecture. His thesis is that ecological and social sustainability are mutually dependent, which is why one cannot exist without the other. Both objectives are prone to conflict. Social actors can thus only be successful in the transformation if they manage the tension between social and ecological sustainability goals.

The “resource curse” is typically referred to in cases where a fatal, quasi-lawful connection between resource wealth and economic, political and social undesirable developments happens – something mostly attributed to the resource-rich countries of the Global South. The other side of the coin, however, is usually left out of the discussion – namely, that the postulated connection would not even be conceivable without the hunger for resources of the rich industrial societies of the Global North. It was not until the Ukraine war and the looming energy crisis that it became publicly known in our latitudes that the exorbitant – and especially in the context of “energy transition”  – demand for raw materials of the central economies is the smooth-running, never stuttering engine of most global distortions. In other words, one man’s compulsion is another man’s curse. Thus, this lecture argues that anyone who wants to get to grips with the structural problems of a socio-ecological transformation must face up to the relationality of globally unequal modes of production, work and life.

The Venue

The lecture series will take place every Thursday, from 18:00h to 20:00h, alternating between Kassel and Marburg. To participate in the online event, please register HERE.

Venue in Kassel

Venue in Marburg