Marina Shemesh has released this “Scorched Earth” image under Public Domain license.

I was fortunate enough to join the discussion surrounding The Case for Climate Reparations: Colonialism, corporate power and restorative climate justice. The talk was hosted by Global Justice Now and was led by Dorothy Guerrero (@deeguerero) Head of Policy at Global Justice Now.

The speakers included Asad Rehmn (@chilledasad100) War On Want , Lumumba Di-Aping: Former UN Climate Negotiator and  Adrienne Buller: Senior Fellow at Common Wealth (@adribuller).

Lumumba Di-Aping stated that it was ‘…self evident global efforts had not been heeded…’ and that the goals set in the 1994 UN Framework for preventing dangerous CO2 levels had not been met. This ‘destruction by inaction’ is a global problem, however it is the global south that are feeling the effect of global warming at a higher frequency and are at greater risk of resource, agricultural and financial decimation. The effect of global warming is humanitarian crisis, starvation, drought, disease and extreme weather conditions are but the arrowhead of the collapse of the global south. Di-Aping states that Africa’s Lake Chad has dried up, the indigenous Maori people have lost most of their habitat. The Po river in Italy has dried up and Germany has been battling torrential rains that Bangladesh has been experiencing for the past 30 plus years.

The IPCC Report April 2022 (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) states that the 1.3 degrees Celsius will be reached earlier than expected and that once we hit 1.5 degrees Celsius that any attempt to mitigate or reverse the effect of global warming will be in vain.

1.3-1.5 °C

Di-Aping stresses that ‘Climate Justice in essence is about being able to live and survive in our common home’. This goes beyond mere reparations to the global south, it affects us all. Crop failure will cause famine, the spread of disease, an incomprehensible need for global health aid. Flooding and torrential storms such as Hurricane Rai in the Philippines in December 2021 destroys agriculture, access to clean water, increased female UTI’s, infant death due to unclean water and exposure, inability for the tourism heavy economy to bounce back in order to look after the domestic inhabitants.

It is estimated that 2.5 Million people will be displaced due to global warming. The push for climate justice supersedes the climate crisis that has already been allowed to elbow and get a foot in the door.  The physical and embodied nature of climate change is staring us directly in the eyes and the west bury their heads in the ground and move the goalposts on the timeline for action when it is needed now. Adrienne Buller refers to the language used surrounding climate change as subverted and weaponised. Carbon markets such as Shell plan to become a net-zero company, ‘…they would have to plant forests three times that the size of the land space of the Netherlands’.  The term ‘Net-Zero’ is ambiguous in itself, from what to zero? Where is the scale, where is the marking point of this zero. The premises of 2030-2050 for a timeframe of working towards carbon neutrality are also inadequate and used as a tool to the West to stall and give a false sense of security that the state is taking the climate crisis seriously. If we are already hurtling towards 1.5 °C and due to hit 1.3 °C earlier than originally set out, then surely there is a very real CRISIS entering the global north’s homes that is being pushed to the sidelines.

Matt Hrkac from Geelong/Melbourne, Australia

Assad Rehman (Co-Founder of the COP 26 negotiations) states an increase of ‘…2 degrees is certain death for the continent of Africa…’ .  The $100 Billion for climate change mitigation fund is still not being met. Rehman describes this as ‘Climate Apartheid’ to which Di-Aping agrees and further states that ‘…we are funneling the people of the global south into the furnace…’. In short, the fiscal segregation accelerates the disposability and expendability of the populace of the global south.  Within the City of London 101 British companies control $1 trillion dollars of Africa’s resources which is 24% of the British economy. Rehman continues that ‘…the UK is the 5th richest country in the world and is an engine of imperial exploitation-doctoring on discovery’. Between 1761 and 1808 15 million African people were enslaved making the British Economy 31 Billion pounds. By 1770 the investment of the British Economy was £4.4 Million, £3.8 Million from slavery. During the Raj the UK brought out $45 trillion that made up 24% of its GDP, but by the time the British left it was only 4%. In 2012 developed countries made $3.3 Trillion dollars from the global south. The effect of which is the right to energy, food and soil protection is left in ruin, and there is a limit to the resources and materials used.

The main takeaways from the speakers were that:

We have to live in temperatures below 1.5 °C margin and the UK needs to do its fair share of the work to ensure this.

Make energy and food a right and equally distributed.

Be aware of planetary limits. Reduce the amount of materials that we use each year. Nuclear energy and extracting fossil fuels need to be undone.

The IPCC report states that the vulnerability of the global south is because of embedded systems of imperialism.

Eventually capitalism will be facing its own biodiversity crisis. Built on cheap resources, food and workers. Without these the supply chains will dry up, staple crops such as rice and corn have and will continue to fail. The global south will be forced to find habitable land meaning mass displacement of nations. The pollution of rivers and cities needs to be seen as a criminal act and industries and companies must be held accountable. When the Sahara is moving to southern Europe and the vineyards moving to Iceland the accountability is with the developed nations, and thus the responsibility to repair, install appropriate sustainable infrastructures and preserve the planet for all. 

Climate justice transition does require huge finance but the money is there, it is just being funnelled into archaic unsustainable infrastructure and held by the wealthier countries in the world. Surely the importance of building a sustainable habitable planet is a greater imperative than money in the banks of the wealthy nations.

The good news is that there is time for change, the window for action is ever closing but if action is taken immediately then the survival and sustainability of the planet is truly achieveable.

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