Climate Colonialism and the EU’s Green Deal | Climate change


So far this year, the Amazon rainforest, our largest rainforest teeming with ecosystems essential to global climate regulation networks, has had 430,000 acres (174,000 hectares) cleared and burned to supply the forest industry and clear land for animal husbandry. Between August 2019 and July 2020, an additional 2.7 million acres (1.1 million hectares) were destroyed. Much of the wood and meat produced in Brazil from this deforestation ends up in the markets of the Global North.

In Southeast Asia, deforestation linked to the palm oil industry is also continuing. Between 2018 and 2020, nearly 500,000 acres (202,000 hectares) of rainforest were cleared in just three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, resulting in the loss of their lands by indigenous communities. . Demand for palm oil from major food brands in northern countries remains high, despite their commitments to reduce its use.

Meanwhile, demand for greener energy sources, especially in northern countries, is driving demand for metals like nickel, cobalt and lithium. Workers in mining communities working to extract these metals face dangerous and degrading working conditions.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the use of child labor in cobalt mines is widespread, putting children’s lives at risk, harming their health and depriving them of an education. In Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, lithium extraction uses large amounts of water, accelerates desertification and pollutes groundwater and rivers, endangering the health of local communities.

According to data collected by the London-based NGO Business and Human Rights Resource Center, there have been 304 complaints of human rights violations by 115 companies that mine these minerals.

Although the end of colonialism was declared decades ago, its latest effects in the form of these extractive industries are clear. The system of indigenous land appropriation, resource extraction, labor exploitation and wealth transfer set up by European colonialists continues to function and dispossess people in the countries of the South.

It is in the context of this neocolonial reality that the European Union announced its Green Deal at the end of 2019.

Backed by an apolitical narrative that humans have already altered Earth’s climate and degraded the majority of its ecosystems, so action must be taken, the Green Deal completely ignores the fact that the Global North has been the primary driver of change. climate and environmental degradation around the world.

European governments and businesses have not only damaged and destroyed the environment on the continent and exploited marginalized local communities, but have also adopted the exact same behavior, and worse, on every other continent.

The natural world in Africa, Asia and Latin America has been destroyed by the capitalist economic systems deployed by the Global North which have normalized, extended and reinforced hyper-extraction through overproduction and overconsumption.

The European Green Deal does not describe how it will reconcile and repair the loss and damage that EU countries have caused to ecosystems and communities outside of Europe. It does not recognize either how this damage obliges the inhabitants of the countries of the South to migrate towards the European coasts, where they undergo refoulements, must less offer a solution.

The European Green Deal also ignores the environmental impact of the European campaign for renewable energy and electric mobility on other parts of the world, where the resources necessary for this economic change will have to be extracted. Nor does it pay attention to how climate change and environmental degradation have disproportionately affected its own marginalized communities and the poor and destitute in the Global South.

In other words, in the pursuit of making the EU the first climate neutral region in the world by 2050, Brussels is going back to its old ways and deploying what we call climate colonialism.

The EU’s apolitical discourse on climate change – ignoring the impact of colonialism and capitalism and heavily influenced by the very companies that profit from it – could result in climate action not only without impact but, worse yet, unsustainable and damaging. for the marginalized communities on the continent as well as the countries of the South.

It builds on leading technology solutions and ideas, promising to lead a “green and sustainable” economy with electric vehicles, solar panels, wind turbines and other exciting renewable innovations.

But the question is, for whom will this be sustainable?

In order not to fall into climate colonialism, the European Green Deal needs a clear plan to stamp out harmful mining models, recognize its historic responsibility in the climate crisis, and account for the damage caused by US companies. EU in the countries of the South.

Working within the same system that causes injustice will only reproduce injustice. At Equinox, we have offered a number of important recommendations which could help move the Green Deal away from its capitalist and colonial base towards new holistic and intersectional approaches that place social and racial justice at the heart of its concerns.

Among these recommendations are a clear commitment to racial justice, integrated policies linking the EU anti-racist action plan to the Green Deal, institutional reform and a new relationship with civil society.

Only by recognizing that it perpetuates colonial capitalism and committing to end this approach can the EU’s Green Deal be truly effective in tackling climate change. For too long, European governments and businesses have wreaked havoc around the world. Now is the time for justice, accountability and a complete overhaul of economic systems. Our collective survival depends on it.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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