The United States climate envoy John Kerry remarked that African nations should step up their efforts in the global collective fight against carbon emissions as the grim reality of climate change takes its ugly toll on the whole world; Africa included. He called on Africa to help in reducing the adverse effects of climate change: a sharp surge in temperatures that has warped weather patterns in Africa through incessant and excessive droughts and flooding, with such effects destroying crop yields.
While acknowledging the negative impacts that climate change has wrought on the planet, Kerry highlighted the truism that African nations emit the least amount of dangerous global emissions. And in this, he also glossed over the fact that the countries responsible for harmful global emissions are dominantly the industrially advanced countries of the global north.
According to a Reuters report, Kerry called on African nations to adopt an all-hands-on-deck approach to the scourge of climate change at the African Ministerial Conference on Environment in Dakar, the capital of Senegal a few weeks ago.
His diplomatic exhortations — that no nation on the planet can escape the dreadful repercussions of global warming, therefore necessitating global collective action against harmful emissions — were found wanting in that while he highlighted the fact that only 20 countries (the U.S. included) are responsible for 80 % of the world’s economy, he never mentioned that the same countries are supposed to own up for the deadly mess they have created.
He addressed the delegates present, “All of us are threatened by emissions – and Mother Nature does not care where those emissions come from.
“The challenge of the climate crisis comes from the crisis of emissions in every country.”
The U.S. is the chief culprit in this existential quandary: an imperial economy largely driven by coal, oil, and gas. It thus becomes grossly hypocritical and disingenuous to call on African countries to help in the fight against climate change when the latter only emit 0.55 % of lethal global emissions.
Kerry’s comments were immediately met with stinging criticism on the internet, with several online users bringing to the fore the salient reality that the U.S. has absolutely no moral authority whatsoever to call on African nations to clean a mess they did not create. Especially in the context of African countries (and others in Asia of a less industrially developed stature) being affected the most by the negative effects of climate change.
“We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of the past … How you decide to approach the future will have a profound impact, not just on Africa, but on our ability as a planet to solve this problem”, Kerry said.
But his admonitions are severely insincere as he is oblivious (meaning the West is oblivious) of centuries of brutal imperial domination of global south countries through colonial and neocolonial extractivism, exploitation, and massive inequalities (both material and epistemological global inequalities).
This imperialism — embodied in the contemporary via globalized and financialized neoliberal capitalism(and by way of colonial history) — is the only reason why the world grapples with the morbid reality of climate change.
It is remiss of the West to call on African nations to help in the fight to curb emissions when the imperialistic U.S. military pollution is the “biggest enabler of climate change” in the world.
It is wrong for the West to ignore its massive complicity in this deadly predicament when fossil fuel transnational corporations such as Chevron, BP, Shell, Exxon, and state-owned corporations such as Saudi Aramco and Gazprom “relentlessly exploit the world’s oil, gas, and coal reserves” with wanton disregard for the planet’s future. All for obscene amounts of profits.
The emissions from these few oil behemoths is totally nothing when compared to Africa’s emissions (where for instance Western big oil companies have left a devastating trail of dehumanizing environmental degradation — a quick example being Shell’s crimes against humanity in Nigeria).
The predatory U.S. military should be called out to action in the fight against climate change; together with all other industrially developed nations (who only got industrialized at Africa’s expense through violent and barbaric military conquests).
Global inequalities and exploitation cannot be glossed over in this global predicament by vapid diplomatic statements at conferences that are lopsided in favour of Western imperial and capitalist hegemony over the world’s natural resources.
And in all this privileged and hypocritical display of sheer double standards, it is Africa and the livelihoods of its citizens that are being mercilessly decimated at a far frightening rate.