climate change race

Greenpeace on climate, race and colonialism

A striking new report from Greenpeace this week explores the connection between the climate emergency and racism. It also breaks new ground in quantifying environmental racism in the UK.

“Racism and the environmental crisis are two sides of the same coin,” says the report, Confronting Injustice. It describes how people of colour have been disproportionately affected by the climate crisis, but those struggles have been under-represented in the media and often ignored by global power brokers.

Acknowledging that they have not historically done enough to highlight the racism of the climate crisis, Greenpeace go on to provide an overview of what climate justice is, and what anti-racist responses to the climate crisis look like. They do this with a variety of case studies that put indigenous people at the centre, as well as historical case studies showing how environmental destruction often has its roots in expoitative colonial projects.

This is exactly the kind of report I have been hoping to see more of, and it shares a lot of core ideas with my book Climate Change is Racist: Race, Privilege and the Struggle for Climate Justice. It also advances some subjects I wanted to explore and could not find information about, such as environmental injustice in Britain. While there is a whole movement around environmental justice in the US, there hasn’t been much attention in the UK on how people of colour are more affected by environmental harm. Confronting Injustice has lots of new material here, and I’ll write about it in more detail in a future post.

Lastly, the concluding chapter of the report sets out a vision for addressing racism and climate together, and describes the multiple benefits of an intersectional approach: “The fight for environmental justice will not only help to tackle the climate crisis and biodiversity loss; it can also help to bring about the transformation of our economies, safeguard jobs and livelihoods, and fight inequality.”

Practically speaking, that means far greater attention to reparations for climate change. Decision making needs to shift towards those most affected by the crisis, rebalancing inequalities of power and resources. Just transition principles will ensure that old injustices are not perpetuated in new forms.

As Dr Halima Begum of the Runnymede Trust writes in the foreword: “What we now need is dedicated and determined action within the environmental movement to recognise the shared and interlinked struggles between the fight for racial justice and the fight against the environmental emergency.”

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