2020 has been an awakening of our interconnections as a global society, both in terms of our relationship with the planet, with the biosphere, and between different human societies. We have begun to understand that our effects have a clear impact not only on our biosphere, but also on our daily lives. 

The Gloria storm that ravaged our coasts earlier this year is only the most recent and local example of the hardening of the atmospheric phenomena that we will suffer from now on. On the other hand, the coronavirus crisis has been an example of the relationship between the brutal ecocide to which we are subjecting the entire biosphere and how diseases that might never have affected us are becoming increasingly common.

Child looking at a banner where it says "Covid today, climate tomorrow: act now"

We have long since entered the Anthropocene, the geological era in which humans have profoundly modified the climate and biosphere on a planetary scale through our activities. However, we do not all share the same blame: we can speak of the capitalocene, since the fundamental cause of our having reached this emergency situation is the toxic system in which we live.

The era of desolation

To address the climate emergency with the necessary far-sightedness and seriousness, we need to recognize that there is an inequality of responsibility for these emissions. Just as we cannot say that all humans bear the same responsibility for climate change and ecocide, the same can be said of the societies and countries in which they are grouped. Thus, we can see how the richest 10% of the human population generates 49% of emissions. Or, even more seriously, 50% of the world’s population is responsible for only 10% of global emissions.

This difference is due to the accumulation of industrial infrastructures in the countries of the Global North, while those of the South have difficulties due to the fact that they have been subjected to systematic extractivism for decades. In other words, if the countries of the North can enjoy the standards of living and production that they have right now, it has been thanks to the resources of the Global South, which have been extracted, by questionable means to say the least, from their territories. Thus, we have reached the era of desolation, where the interests of a few rule the system, while the remaining 90% are left at the mercy of ecocide and increasingly extreme atmospheric phenomena.

These few, who have easy access to the governments of the Global North through lobbies, claim for themselves all industrial and developmental infrastructures. This not only has direct effects on the ecosystems surrounding these societies, but also makes the infrastructures themselves a source of inequality. Once developed in a post-industrial stage, and theoretically more “efficient” from the point of view of green capitalism, production and the resulting pollution are returned to the countries of the South.

Thus, the circle is completed: after having been subjected for decades to colonial plundering, the societies of the global peripheries are plunged into sacrifice zones: it is there that highly polluting industries are located, which are no longer accepted in the Global North, while the territory is plundered for minerals, timber or other resources. Obviously, this has serious effects not only on local ecosystems, but also on the daily lives of their people and on the capacity of their societies to react to any change that affects their lives, which are much more inhospitable.

For climate justice

These inequalities go far beyond simple inequalities in emissions. They also have repercussions at the social, economic and political levels with clear impacts, one of which is the capacity to generate resilient societies in the face of climate emergency. Therefore, to any perspective of climate stabilization and ecological preservation, we must also add a perspective of global justice, of climate justice.

We cannot be satisfied with our European societies erecting “climate bubbles”, walls behind which to protect themselves uselessly from a global catastrophe for which they are largely responsible. And, in an ecologically full world, we cannot accept the supposed solutions that have brought us this far. In the face of the usual interests, which propose that the only way to “development” is through the accelerated pollution and extraction that European countries have used for two centuries, we must rebel.

We must understand climate justice as burden sharing, so that no country is left to face the climate crisis alone. But, equally, we must understand climate justice to advance both Northern and Global South societies to a common goal through solidarity and cooperation.

If heads of state and government are not willing to do so, we, civil societies around the world, will do it for them. As we have already shown at COP25, in the face of the fires in Australia or with the arrival of gas extracted by fracking in Barcelona.