In my book I write about the connection between climate change and colonialism, and how old injustices and power structures are reproduced through the climate crisis. There’s a whole other book to be written about how colonialism has shaped global emissions, contributes to specific vulnerabilities, and holds back solutions. But that’s for another time.
Today, I wanted to share a simple comparison that I’ve been presenting in talks this week. First of all, here is a map of the world showing countries that were colonised in 1920.
And in this second map, we see current carbon emissions per capita.
I find it rather striking that so many of the countries in dark green are the same in both maps. Countries that were colonies in 1920, with a few exceptions, are likely to be least responsible for climate change today, a hundred years later.
I don’t want to read too much into these two images, which I compiled for my own curiosity a couple of weeks ago. I offer them for discussion, because I think the recurring pattern here is worth reflecting on in the run-up to the COP26 climate talks. While colonised countries may be formally free and independent, how much have the underlying power imbalances of global politics really shifted? Who is served by current global institutions, and who is overlooked? And at a time when many people claim climate leadership who shouldn’t, what does decolonial climate leadership look like?