Research team

Law and Development

Expertise

Tomaso’s main line of research focuses on the link between law and food, with particular attention to the international dimension (trade, investments and the human right to food) and the implementation of local practices. In his latest academic work, he has focussed on the EU regulation of food waste, on the role of competition law in obstructing coordinated attempts to improve the global food system and on the idea of the food system as a commons (similar to air, water, sun, etc.). He is the co-investigator in a UKRI-AHRC funded project entitled 'Food security at the time of climate change: learning and sharing bottom up experiences from the Caribbean Region' where he works with local and academic partners from Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Belize, Colombia, Antigua and Barbuda and the United Kingdom. His second line of research concerns the socio-legal-financial construction of Green Bonds as a new/old form of financing that combines the instrument of debt with the desire of building sustainable and green futures. He is the co-investigator of a British Academy funded project that looks at the expansion of the Green Bond market in Brasil from the point of view of local communities and the people who are affected by the realisation of this new round of large-scale development projects.

Consolidate and scale up socio-environmentally sustainable, accessible and short food chains in the EU. 01/01/2021 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

In the 2020 Farm to Fork strategy, the European Commission recognises that the current EU food system is characterized by significant economic, social and environmental externalities. In particular, small-scale farmers and SMEs receive a very limited percentage of the value generated, nature is degraded and consumers have no access to healthy food. In the last years, alternative, short and fair food chains have been proposed as a solution to the social and environmental weaknesses of the conventional food system. However, academic research has showed that these business models often face significant struggles: they often rely on volunteer work; they can hardly scale up; they tend to cater a small group of wealthy consumers. Our project recognizes the need to bring together academic and non-academic expertise to go beyond these bottlenecks and support the establishment of financially, socially and environmentally resilient North-North food chains. With the support of two post-doc researchers hired 50%, the work of two internationally known non-governmental organizations operating in the area of fair and ethical trade (Fair Trade Advocacy Office and World Fair Trade European Union) and four privileged Belgian stakeholders (Flanders' Food, Fairtrade Belgium, The trade for development centre and Belgium Fair Trade Federation), we analyse and assess the potential and limits of existing alternative, sustainable and fair European short-food chains. During the two years, we us stakeholders meetings, desk-based research and qualitative analyses to valorise existing solutions, identify new ones and offer guidance both on how to integrate local, sustainable and fair food into larger food chains and on how to scale up while being financially resilient, fair, sustainable and accessible. In the long-term, the project sets the bases for a research/action international consortium to be consolidated through the two years of the project and the drafting of at least one proposal for a large European grant (Horizon Europe) or a larger SBO IOF grant.

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Study on the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO). 10/12/2020 - 31/03/2021

Abstract

Describe how BIO operates today and explain how today's structure, strategic mandate, governance, risk management policy and accountability mechanisms differ from those that were in place in 2012 when the DBTFP report was issued; Mapping the projects funded by BIO in the areas of agriculture and climate, Assessing BIO's farming and climate strategy in general and in the specific context of the two case studies that will be selected; Formulating recommendations and indications of possible interventions.

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China: The (not so) Gentle Ecological Civiliser. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2023

Abstract

I propose to conduct unique, multidisciplinary research to the content, scope, and construction of the Chinese version of sustainability, by focusing on the experience of the legal and institutional framework produced by 'Ecological Civilisation' (EC). It fits into the traditions of Law & Society and Law in Context. EC has been promoted in the last years by the Chinese government as a new and alternative way of looking at the relationship between nature and humanity in the context of the Paris Agreement on climate change. China as an ecological civiliser will project attitudes towards the states, society, and species, and eventually create laws, institutions, and social realities that fit these attitudes. I will focus on the legal dimension of EC in ordinary life and empirically unfold the struggles and contradictions that accompany its installation. To achieve this goal, I will conduct fieldwork in Jiangsu Province, observing trials and interviewing people. Based on this survey, I will identify (1) the holistic and hierarchical view regarding the State, society, and nature, (2) the de facto mechanism of multicentric governance, and (3) the urgent need of adapting national laws to local realities. This research will apply methods inspired by Law in Context and Bourdieu's sociology, with the support of the multidisciplinary approach of Law Faculty and the IOB at the UAntwerp.

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Sustainable development and environmental justice. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2024

Abstract

Ten years ago, the world saw that finance had permeated every aspect of the global economy. Back then, it was clear that financial interests could not build a better and different world. Ten years later, the COP24 has legitimised a vision of sustainability and climate change mitigation and adaptation where sustainability rhymes with profitability. Financial actors are increasingly finding large returns by investing in the transition to "greener" infrastructure, including the not-so-green Chinese green belt and road and dams like the Belo Monte, a project that originally applied for carbon credits and was labelled as a sustainable investment. Similarly, they can make money out of interests paid by cities that try to reduce their environmental impact, adapt to climate change and implement more sustainable solutions. Green bonds represent one of the main tools used to channel resources from finance into the green transition, but they have not been sufficiently discussed or understood from the point of view of law and socio-ecological justice. If money is the driver, we should not expect private investors to have any interest in projects that won't generate a sufficient return, to support people or cities that cannot pay for the service or for the debt, or to protect poor and vulnerable people from climate change. The project critically engages with green bonds and with the assumption that climate change should be fought according to the rules of Wall Street, i.e. that people and the planet should be supported only on the basis of whether money can be generated or not.

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Green city bonds as a space of socio-ecological conflict. 01/10/2019 - 30/09/2023

Abstract

The Institute of Development Policy of the University of Antwerp is seeking to fill a full-time (100%) vacancy for a Doctoral Grant by the University Research Fund (BOF) in the area of 'Green City Bonds to finance climate change adaptation and mitigation: a comparative analysis of legal processes, development paradigms and socio-environmental implications'. Your research is situated in the IOB research field of Development Processes, Actors and Policies and is connected with the Law and Development Research Group at the Faculty of Law. More specifically, your research focus matches the research line "environment and sustainable development" but also engages with questions of contractual and regulatory dynamics pertaining to the interaction between city councils, financial investors and citizenship at the time of climate emergency. Your research focuses on a comparative, power-sensitive and socially-informed analysis of the way in which (at least) three main cities in the world use or plan to use the Green City Bonds to finance their climate change adaptation and mitigation plans. Specific attention will be paid to the legislative, contractual and regulatory frameworks that cities enact in order to have access to the funds, and the implications that Green City Bonds have in terms of identification of adaptation and mitigation priorities, democratic participation, cities' indebtedness and the transformation of the pre-existing regulatory and governance framework.

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Support preparation EU application. 15/11/2019 - 14/11/2020

Abstract

Sustainable and just food systems can combat climate change, regenerate ecosystems and provide affordable nutrients, decent jobs, and educated consumers. However, the EU agri-food sector and the global supply chains that feed EU consumers are characterized by an unequal distribution of value among actors and serious environmental externalities. In the EU and elsewhere, small-scale farmers and SMEs often earn too little while players upstream fight on price to gain market-shares and defeat competitors. Farmers struggle to earn a living and are unable to engage in environmentally sustainable practices. The role of price competition and competitive attitudes in undermining sustainability is especially visible in EU chains like grain, vegetables and fruits, as well as in tropical fruit supply chains (cocoa, banana and coffee) that are crucial for SMEs and link millions of small-scale farmers with EU consumers. A range of technological and organizational innovations have been attempted to address socio-environmental unsustainability, but they rarely had a significant impact because of their silos approach and the reproduction of the dynamics of cheap food and price competition. In addition, solutions often come up against the legal barriers posed by competition law, which works to prevent sharing of information on pricing and other forms of cooperation, with no legal support. A more systematic and collaborative approach to sustainable, safe and just food supply chains is required, a fact that is increasingly recognized among EC policy makers calling for "new ways of doing science, research and innovation that put the food system at the centre." This imperative underlies the ambition of CISV (Collaborative Innovations for Sustainable Competitiveness), the objectives of which are to co-construct, pilot and assess a combination of cooperative legal, organization and technological innovations to promote sustainability-oriented competitiveness in agri-food chains.

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