Global South

From Le Hub/The Climate Justice Organizing HUB
Revision as of 21:17, 9 May 2024 by Mediawiki (talk | contribs) (→‎Examples around the world)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Global South "functions as more than a metaphor for underdevelopment. It references an entire history of colonialism, neo-imperialism, and differential economic and social change through which large inequalities in living standard, life expectancy, and access to resources are maintained." -Dados and Connell (2012) [1] . Note that an alternative to the term 'Global South' is MAPA (most affected people and areas). See our definitions page on MAPA for more.

The knowledge shared on this page comes from:

1) The collaborative 'Fair Shares' webinar by the HUB and the Climate Emergency Unit held on October 11th.

This event featured:

Anjali Appadurai (she/her): Climate justice organizer and communicator. Worked at the UN Climate convention to ensure social movements demands were heard in halls of power. Runs the Padma centre for climate justice, a project that brings together diasporic communities to build power around issues of climate and economic justice. She works as the Campaign Director at the Climate Emergency Unit.

Meena Raman (she/her): Head of Programmes of Third World Network (TWN), coordinating programming and supporting intergovernmental climate negotiations. President of Friends of the Earth (FOE) Malaysia and member of FOE International. Legal adviser to the Consumers' Association of Penang. Founded the first public interest law firm in Malaysia.

Ceecee Holz (they/them): Senior research at the Climate Equity Reference Project and Executive Director of the Climate Equity Reference Project Canada. Affiliated researcher at Stockholm Environment Institute, and teaches a course at Carlton U for their Masters' specialization in climate change. Their studies focus is on International and Canadian climate change policies, focused on the role of equity and fairness as enablers of action. They served as the executive director for Climate Action Network Canada. Has been involved with Climate Action Network International's advocacy work at UN climate change negotiations for over a decade.

2) Additional sources compiled by Bryan Giroux and Kenzie Harris.

Injustice in the Global South is a climate justice issue

1) Historical emissions and responsibility: Wealthy nations caused and perpetuate the climate crisis by exploiting the resources, lands and labor of the Global South

  • (Neo)colonialism resulted in unequal land distribution, present-day land conflicts, and extractivism in the Global South (Estermann, J., 2014). [2]
  • Meena Raman: Colonialism and slavery created the inequities we experience today. The countries that benefited must be held responsible for the emissions this created.
  • Anjali Appadurai explained that most cumulative emissions come from North America, Europe and Asia. The smallest come from India, Africa, South America and Oceania
  • The poorest 50% of the world's population emits only 7% of the total greenhouse gases (Migration to Asia Peace, 2022). [3]
  • According to a report by Oxfam, privileged lifestyles in the Global North produce a carbon footprint that is one hundred times larger than the Global South (Riaz, A., 2021). [4]  
  • Ceecee Holz explains that wealthy, higher emission countries have fair shares that exceed their own emissions. In most cases, scale of International cooperation exceeds scale of domestic effort. 
  • The Global North for it's benefit alone, extracts cheap labour, and resources, in the Global South.
  • Meena Raman: The Paris agreement holds our governments accountable at the International level. Nationally determined contributions can be measured against this. 'Net zero' is used to avoid International responsibility. Canada wants to continue fossil fuel production and expansion into 2050. This does not hold up to International responsibility.
2) Right to human development
  • For justice, equal per capita entitlement to the planet's resources consistent with ecological boundaries is necessary (Gonzalez, C.,2015). [5]
3) Differing capabilities and capacities: The Global North disproportionately caused the climate and debt crisis, yet, the Global South bear the greatest burden
  • The dominance of the extractive sector by the countries of the Global North resulted in the dependency and 'underdevelopment' of the Global South (Estermann, J., 2014). [6]
  • Countries in the Global South export raw materials, energy, land, and labor worth $10 trillion annually to account for the debt caused by the Global North (Migration to Asia Peace, 2022) [7]
  • The unequal distribution of the costs of climate change adds to the worsening of the wealth gap between the Global North and South. The high price of mitigation and adaptation loans further disadvantages the Global South, which is most affected by the climate crisis. They are accumulating climate debt for a crisis they didn't cause (Rice, J., 2009) [8]
  • Ceecee Holz explains countries most highly dependent on extraction will need most time to phaseout extraction (Iraq, South Sudan, Congo). Wealthier, less dependent countries will need to phase out faster (US, Canada, UK, Norway). Extraction should be reduced fastest where doing so will have the least social costs. How mch capacity does a country have to overcome fossil fuel extraction phase out?
4) Companies from the Global North due their dirty business in the Global South
  • More than half of all mining activity in Latin America is connected to a private Canadian entity. [9]
  • For example, the East Africa crude oil pipeline was funded by RBC between 2016-2020. [10]
  • Companies such as Apple, Google and Tesla fund highly exploitative cobalt mining in Congo (see the below table for more details). [11]

Examples around the world

Meena Raman in Malaysia


  • I worked with fishing communities facing water pollution. Fish were dying from factories dumping industrial waste in the water, and farmers were suffering pesticide poisoning. In the 80s, we were trying to address some of these basic problems in food, water and fish. We were only looking at the environmental issues causing local impacts.
  • But when we looked further, we saw this was connected to International trade. Our economy was connected to Global North economies. Industrialism was about mass production and consumption for the North. So it goes beyond regulation at the National level. It's about who is driving the investments. Everything is about protecting the 'big guys' (big oil, big pharma etc.); they don't care about people in the environment. We suffer at the hands of their investments.
  • The Global South are commodity producers, selling at very low prices which are determined by New York and other stock exchanges. When prices go down, we go into a debt crisis, and the IMF and World Banks offer more loans to increase our debt.

Meena also pointed out that marginalized communities in rich and powerful countries, such as Indigenous communities in North America, also suffer from these systems. See MAPA (most affected people and areas) for more.

Evelyn Acham in Uganda on the 'Dash for Gas' [12]

  • To deal with rising inflation and energy costs caused by fossil fuel companies (see our page on Class issues/labour and the climate movement for more on this), European government's are promoting new oil and gas extraction and export infrastructure.
  • European leaders have announced deals to increase gas production and exports with Egypt, Senegal, Angola and Republic of Congo.
  • Oil and gas extraction and export undermines existing commitments to keep temperatures to 1.5°C and to phase out international finance for oil and gas, which was promised in Glasgow at COP26.
  • "It also risks undermining African development, saddling countries with debts for export-oriented gas production for which there will be fewer and fewer customers as demand drops, leaving African people on the hook to cover the costs of these stranded assets." -Evelyn Acham[13]

Friends of the Congo [14]

and Victoria Audu [15]
  • The Congo Basin sequesters more carbon than the Amazon or any other rainforest.
  • "The infrastructure of Congo has been intentionally designed for mass extraction since colonial rule began in the 1800s, leaving the majority of the Congolese people without access to their own land nor the ability to alter or end the extractive processes which governments and corporations profit from. This very design is why one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world has one of the highest poverty rates on the planet." -Friends of the Congo
  • Congo has cobalt, gold, copper and coltan, which fuels batteries for our cell phones, electric vehicles, and wind turbines. Extreme exploitation is present in these mines, including the use of child miners, and the deadly pollution impacting the communities.
  • As of October 2023, 6.9 million Congolese people have been displaced due to violence and rebel attacks, fuelled by profits possible due to Western influence. For example, Rwanda have also been accused of funding rebel groups such as M23 to invade Congo for cobalt extraction. Rwanda has a close relationship with the West, who are eager to access cobalt.)
  • 255,000 Congolese citizens mine cobalt, and at least 40,000 of them are children. Much of the work is small-scale mining where labourers primarily use their hands, and earn less than $2 per day.
  • Mined minerals are often hazardous and exposure to some can have profound health effects. There is also a constant risk of falling into open mine shafts, being trapped, or injured by collapsing tunnels, or drowning while mining underwater. In a survey, World Vision also found that 19 per cent of miners have witnessed a child die at a mining site, 67 per cent reported frequent or persistent coughing, and several girls had genital infections after working waist-deep in acidic water. In addition, up to 2,000 people die from cobalt mining accidents in the DRC every year. Miners also face sexual assault and forced evictions." -Victoria Audu
  • The extraction of mineral resources requires cutting down trees and causes the contamination of water bodies. Fish are contaminated with high levels of cobalt.

We must do our 'fair share' to achieve climate justice

What does 'fair share' mean?

Anjali Appadurai explains:

  • To keep global emissions below 1.5 degrees, we must cumulatively reduce about 400 Gt of carbon.
  • Effort to reduce this much carbon is divided between the world's governments.
How we divide fairly depends on...

1) Historical emissions and responsibility (considering inequities created by colonialism, enslavement)

2) Right to human development (bring people out of poverty, get people educated, safe and health)

3) Differing capabilities and capacities (based on who benefited from colonialism, enslavement)

Why do our fair share?
  • Sharing the burden fairly is our only change to calm the crisis. No country can protect it's own climate by reducing its own emissions alone; there is a need for cooperation.
  • It's International law. Ceecee Holz explains that it's included in the UN Framework on Climate Change. For example, it's stated that developed countries must take the lead, and that common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities exist. 
  • Uniting in solidarity and common cause is how we win!
What is Canada's fair share?
  • Must lower emissions by 140% of 2005 levels by 2030 (#'s are higher now)

How do we reduce more than 100%?

  • Domestic energy transition (-60%)
  • Climate finance, technology and capacity support, loss and damage contributions to developing countries (80%). This is in addition to domestic reduction.

Anjali Appadurai shared that our role is to:

  • Expose the pretence, duplicity and hypocrisy of policymakers who undermine fairness
  • Push governments for transparency and courage on meeting climate obligations
  • Show our governments that climate finance and fossil fuel phase out are important to us and we will vote accordingly

To stay connected to work on fighting for fair shares in Canada, visit:

If you have any suggested revisions or additional resources to share related to the above content, please email them to

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Back to Homepage

  1. Dados, Nour and Raewyn Connell. 2012. “The Global South.” Context 11(1): 12-13.
  2. Estermann, J. (2014). Colonialidad, descolonización e interculturalidad. Polis Revista Latinoamericana, 38.
  3. Migration to Asia Peace. (2022, September 23). 2022 Statement for Climate Justice by the Global South.
  4. Riaz, A. (2021, September 29). Views from the Global South: How to decolonise the climate crisis. Euronews Green.
  5. Gonzalez, C. (2015). Environmental Justice, Human Rights, and the Global South. SANTA CLARA J. INT’L L. 13, pp. 151–195.
  6. Estermann, J. (2014). Colonialidad, descolonización e interculturalidad. Polis Revista Latinoamericana, 38.
  7. Migration to Asia Peace. (2022, September 23). 2022 Statement for Climate Justice by the Global South.
  8. Rice, J. (2009). North-south relations and the ecological debt: Asserting a counter-hegemonic discourse. Critical Sociology, 35(2), 225–252.