Working group 9: What do we do with the Master’s Tools – Is European Union Environmental Policy Ready to Decolonize? (Rachel Hamilton)

Chairs: Rachel Hamilton (Chair): (rachel.hamilton(at), Sabaheta Ramcilovic-Suominen (Co-chair): (sabaheta.ramcilovik-suominen(at)


The escalating planetary socioecological crises have increasingly undermined confidence in the contemporary global environmental governance regimes, including those of the European Union (EU).  The EU environmental policies and frameworks increasingly acknowledge the need for change, entertaining terms such as transitions and even more radical term of transformations. Nonetheless, actual operationalisation of such agendas by the EU governance systems has tended to prioritise a relatively narrow set of ‘eco-modernist’ strategies, which frame present socioecological challenges as technical challenges that can be overcome through new technologies, innovation, and improved efficiencies. Many of these approaches have been critiqued for perpetuating core logics of our global capitalist system and the imperative of economic growth, which we argue are at the core of the current socioecological crises.

Decolonial and postcolonial scholars and activists have challenged the very ontological foundations of eco-modernism, arguing that its ‘rationalist’ framings serve to exclude and further marginalise already marginalized societal groups and their visions, ideologies, and onto-epistemologies. Hence, the EU policy interventions with their narrowly framed imaginaries, legitimate the existing structural power imbalances and, by extension, reproduce onto-epistemological injustices against those with different onto-epistemological and political worldviews and structures. The agendas of decolonial theorists go far beyond a request for further inclusion of these marginal communities or perspectives within dominant EU frameworks and logics. Rather, to decolonize necessitate total reorganisations of the socioecological, economic, and ontological order underlying EU systems of governance, policymaking, and global engagement.

Engaging qualitative research conducted at the EU policy level and from EU-linked environmental programs in Ghana and Laos, this panel invites contributions to explore how EU governance frameworks operate in practice and the degree to which they are open to truly radical decolonial transformations. The papers in this panel address the broad questions, such as: (i) What are the mechanisms of power that insulate policymaking and implementation practices from undergoing radical change? (ii) What are the implications, risks and potentials associated both with such radical reorganisations and, conversely, with continuing to resist their possibility. Finally, (iii) what are the strategic implications of such findings for those committed to realising a truly decolonised future for the EU and the global environmental system?


Inclusion or Transformation: A Method of Assessing the Radicality of Socioecological Changes and Political Projects
Rachel Tome Valencia Hamilton (Natural Resources Institute Finland)

From pro-growth, to pro-planetary limits, to decolonial and feminist perspective in the EU bioeconomy – what prospects for transformations?
Sabaheta Ramcilovic-Suominen (Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke)
Wolfram Dressler (University of Melbourne)
Markus Kröger (University of Helsinki)

Radical sustainability transitions in a long wave framework: alternative images of the future
Sofi Kurki (VTT)
Johanna Ahola-Launonen (Aalto University)

From green jobs to green sacrifice zones: the case of the EU bioeconomy investments in Ghana
Erih Mensah Kumeh (Natural Resources Institute Finland Luke)

From timber trade to territory: Indigenous engagements and politics of recognition in the EU-Honduran FLEGT Voluntary Partnership Agreement
Elke Verhaeghe (United Nations University)