One of the most significant developments of 2021 was the agreement on Loss and Damage Funds at the COP27. The developed world agreed to pay a ‘loss and damage’ fund to the so-called developing world. Proclaimed as a significant victory of the Global South, many people around the globe are welcoming this new realisation of the developed world that they owe some ‘damage funds’ to the developing world. However, the loss and damage fund is not being labeled as reparation. Even though the agreement on the loss and damage fund is very vague, it reads that nations from the European Union and the United States will give funds to the ‘vulnerable’ countries so that they can adapt to the climate crisis (Press Release, 2022).
The climate crisis arises out of the destruction of indigenous ways of living, the violent destruction of native economies in the colonies and imposition of capitalism on the colonised world. It isn’t just because of Western contributions to carbon emission but also the destruction led by the West during colonisation. The death and misery of the Global South as a result of so-called natural disasters is as old as the phenomenon of colonialisation itself.
One example of it is the starvation of millions of people in India due to multiple policy-induced famines. This was a result of changing the dynamics of trade in India from a manufacturing country to a country exporting raw products. These policies robbed India of trillions of dollars in terms of the modern economy. This is the extent of changes that the colonisers forced upon the natives all around the globe. Therefore, we need a radical and forceful break from the structures which were imposed by colonialism. We need radical decolonisation to address the climate crisis, and for that, the first step is to demand meaningful reparations and structural change instead of loss and damage funds. Here, we speak of reparations which actually redistribute the global wealth and give back stolen wealth into the hands of nations where it actually belonged – and not just reparations which merely recognise the historical crimes of the West.
The loss and damage fund is not labeled as reparations for the historic crimes that most of these countries committed in the colonies, neither does it hold the West accountable for its contribution to carbon emissions in the world. It rather makes it the ‘savior’ of the ‘vulnerable’ countries from climate crisis. The question is: does the Global South need saviours or does it need justice for the crimes committed by these developed countries? Another question to be asked is: can the climate crisis be understood without taking into account the history of colonialism? Do we need the establishment of a New International Economic Order or merely a ‘loss and damage’ fund to face the climate crisis?
The only way towards a more equitable future is an economy in which there is no disparity between the Global South and the West. In this context, it is also important to demand an end to debt and a global economic system based on the power of large financial institutions, whose power serves as a systematic way to maintain the hegemony of the West over the Global South. The Global South should demand that the West take responsibility for historic crimes committed against the colonised world, forcefully breaking the sacred relationship of natives with the land and nature, and displacing the native from the land and replacing the native way of life with the capitalist system.
An apology can work only along with meaningful reparations for its historic crimes, which will readjust the economic balance, lead to the cancellation of debt and establish a new economic relationship based on equity. Setting up a loss and damage fund without calling it reparations is not enough, while reparations without complete decolonisation are not sufficient either. As Frantz Fanon wrote in The Wretched of the Earth, for many a bible of decolonial thought, “Perhaps it is necessary to begin everything all over again: to change the nature of the country’s exports, and not simply their destination, to re-examine the soil and mineral resources, the rivers, and why not? the sun’s productivity.”
The climate crisis brings itself a unique opportunity for the countries of the Global South to begin all over again and reassert the idea of a new economic order based on the principal of decolonisation. This is a dream for an alternative world order based on equity that was left unrealised in the 1970s. But to become reality, this needs an international effort and genuine solidarity within the countries of the Global South.