According to the outgoing UN racism rapporteur Tendayi Achiume has warned “the world’s reliance on hi-tech capitalist solutions to the climate and ecological crises is perpetuating racism.”
She told Damien Gayle: “Green solutions including electric cars, renewable energy and the rewilding of vast tracts of land are being implemented at the expense of racially and ethnically marginalised groups and Indigenous peoples.”
Achiume, who was appointed as the UN’s special rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in 2017, emphasised that meaningful solutions to the ecological crisis were not possible without tackling racism.
However, she admitted that it was “difficult to imagine how that message could be made to resonate with people holding power.”
“You can’t think that you solve the climate crisis and then attend to racial justice or racial discrimination…What you have to realise is that every action that is taken in relation to ecological crisis – environmental, climate and otherwise – has racial justice implications, and so every action becomes a site of undoing racial subordination,” she argues.
Throughout her tenure, Achiume has called for “the extraction of natural resources, emerging digital technologies, and even global development frameworks were fuelling racial injustices, and the need for reparations for slavery and colonialism.”
Her final report to the UN general assembly in October speaks deeply to the question of racism and climate crisis.
She writes in the report: “The global ecological crisis is simultaneously a racial justice crisis…the devastating effects of ecological crisis are disproportionately borne by racially, ethnically and nationally marginalized groups.”
“Indigenous communities and racially marginalized communities are being displaced by innovations that are supposed to be leading us towards clean energy…And there you see how a green transition, unless it explicitly centres racial justice, can come at the expense of and reproduce these sorts of racial injustices,” she added.