We in the Global South have had centuries of colonial extraction and trade and investment practices that leave our economies in politically, socially and economically precarious positions.

Phew….That was a big sentence. Basically, even though we no longer live under colonial rule, we are still putting up with a world economy that discriminates against us and advantages wealthy people in richer nations. Often our Global South political leaders go along with this as they either think there is no alternative, or they are part of the system of exploitation – or in the case of South Africa, both.

A series of negotiations is needed, country by country and region by region, to calculate how much is needed in repayments, not loans, that makes up for centuries of damage and extraction. The Global North can never make up for the historic wealth plunder and the death and destruction caused by slavery, theft and invasion. However, countries in the South need vast sums of money to assist with a Just Transition, to rebuild after climate shocks and to adapt and protect.

Discussions around Just Transition must take into account how colonialism has fed into poverty, inequality and unemployment in the Global South. While raw materials and cheap labour in the South helped to create wealth in the North, any call to move away from fossil fuels that ignores this reality will lose credibility. Any program of action that worsens conditions in the South will only strengthen the hand of the climate denialists, who exist everywhere and insist that we must choose jobs versus climate, a nonsense and dangerous argument that works in favour of oil, coal and gas giants.

We need to recognise the high cost of living in areas that are heavily impacted by climate linked disasters. And we need to think about what it will take to move people safely from areas that are affected by extreme weather events.

Globally, climate related disasters are now occurring at a rate of one per week and are set to cost at least 300 billion USD per year going forward (National Geographic, 2017).

The Global North is responsible for 92% of excess CO2 emissions, yet poor people who live on less that $2 a day generate almost no greenhouse gas emissions. So first and foremost, governments in the North must implement policy changes that favour the South – these include preventing unfair trade agreements, freeing up the movement of people with universal passports, cancelling debts, litigating against the offending fossil fuel companies, implementing a climate wealth tax.

And finally, let’s talk about the four D’s

  • Decommodification: making energy a public good;
  • Democratization: seeing ratepayers, workers and communities as the people who should make decisions over the energy system, not corporations or technocratic elites;
  • Decarbonization: moving rapidly and aggressively to renewable sources; and,
  • Decolonization: focusing on the disproportionate burden borne by communities of colour, both within and beyond US borders.

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Just Transition

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