Credit: Rothery Sullivan

Calls for more intersectionality amongst climate activists groups at COP26

By Alex Enaholo

There has been criticism levelled at the COP26 summit at the lack of intersectionality and racial justice, which proponents argue are vital to any solution to the climate crisis.  

Both the delegates in the blue zone and the most prominent activist groups such as Extinction Rebellion (XR) are perceived by some as lacking in diverse voices, dismissive of the issues faced by the Global South in dealing with climate change, and too white and too middle class. XR’s tactic of mass arrest has also been perceived as exclusionary as demonstrators of colour are more likely to be arrested, and less likely to be treated leniently by police than their white counterparts. 

The Glasgow Guardian spoke to Heidi Chow, Executive Director of the Jubilee Debt campaign, a group campaigning for debt justice in the UK and the Global South. Earlier in the week, the group attempted to raise awareness of the issue of Climate debt facing the Global South by dropping a Loch Ness debt monster into the Clyde. However, Nessie was instead impounded by police.  

Heidi was sceptical of the summit’s ability to achieve meaningful progress on climate change in the global south due to the lack of focus on the issue. “The summit is so far off achieving (debt justice), debt is not even on the agenda. We can’t achieve climate justice without debt justice. Rich countries created the climate crisis through centuries of industrialisation, extraction, and colonialism, so the real debt is owed by rich countries to the Global South.” 

The group was critical of the $100bn pledge to the Global South made at COP15 in Copenhagen, as it has not been fully delivered, despite the pledge being made in 2009. Money delivered so far has been in the form of loans, which will be paid back with interest. Experts now think that $100bn annually is necessary to deal with the climate crisis in the Global South.  

Yvonne Blake, a climate and racial justice activist from Migrants Organising for Rights and Empowerment (MORE), spoke on the intersection of climate activism with racial justice from the fire engine on Kelvin Way. In her speech, she discussed the lack of support for people forced to migrate by the climate crisis, as well as the neo-colonial attitudes of world leaders. “The climate crisis is a racist crisis, and the solutions are racist solutions because the solutions are being made by the people who created the climate crisis and they are only going to benefit them.” 

She criticised the “we’re all in this together” narrative often used as a rallying point for the climate crisis. In face of scientists issuing their “code red for humanity” in August of this year, Blake pointed out that Africa has been dealing with the effects of exploitation, extractivism and climate change for decades; “Code red is nothing new, code red is drought, code red is famine, code red is young women not being able to access education because our countries has been destabilised not something new that the scientists have come up with, we have been living code red.”

Blake also described the issue of white activist groups speaking over people of colour. She said that any group not containing people of colour and people from the Global South should not be speaking on these issues and that doing so was only furthering their own agenda and of no benefit to those from the Global South. Instead, those groups should be making space for people better placed to speak on the issues, she said. 


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