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OPINION: Why world's youth are using climate strike to call for reparations

by Farzana Faruk Jhumu | @FarzanaJhumu | Fridays for Future
Monday, 28 March 2022 12:00 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: People attend a Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice demonstration before the final session of the COP24 U.N. Climate Change Conference 2018 in Katowice, Poland, December 14, 2018. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Fridays For Future activists take to the streets today to demand climate reparations and justice. Reparations are not charity, but an obligation of the Global North

Farzana Faruk Jhumu is a climate activist with Fridays for Future in Bangladesh

Today I will march on the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh, to demand climate reparations from the Global North. From the Shaheed Minar monument, our national symbol against oppression, climate activists in Bangladesh will call on world leaders and fossil fuel companies to stop dirty industries.

Tens of thousands of other young activists like myself from Fridays For Future will also take to the streets – or join protests virtually – across the world. From the Philippines to Germany, Mexico to Kenya, and Japan to Tuvalu, young people are asking world leaders to put #PeopleNotProfit at the centre of the planet’s future.

Climate reparations are the compensation that the Global North must pay the Global South for the destruction they have caused through huge carbon emissions. This is the responsibility of the Global North, to acknowledge their historical role in today’s climate crisis and the need to stop further emissions in future.

Reparations are not charity but an obligation of the Global North. The Global North is responsible for 92% of global emissions, but MAPA (Most Affected People and Areas) must also face the consequences.

People in the Global South are losing their land, their homes, their hope, their culture. We can't adapt to everything, yet we are trying.

Bangladesh, where I am from, contributes to only 0.21% of global carbon emissions, but we are facing cyclones, floods and droughts every year caused by global warming. It is one of the countries most affected by climate change.

Our lives are turned upside down every time cyclones hit. Homes are razed to the ground, savings wiped out, students lose their access to basic education. Salt water surges into coastal area, tainting our water supplies.

Child marriage, internal migration, air pollution and poorly planned cities are just some of the many problems we face that are linked to the climate crisis. We need money to overcome these problems, but we don’t have it because the funds have been spent on adapting to the climate losses we suffer.

The Global North therefore must acknowledge their accountability.

Leaders of the Global North must understand that reparations are not aid or help but compensation for the emissions they have already produced. It is also an acknowledgment and acceptance of their responsibility in the climate crisis.

Reparations are one of the main elements of climate justice. We can't talk about reparations without talking about colonisation or imperialism because these systems are responsible for the cycles of debt we face today.

Loans are not reparations. Climate finance in the form of loans is another way the Global North is profiting from climate-affected countries.

Debt cancellation should be the first step when it comes to reparations.

The debt we have today is partly because of the losses and damage we have experienced from the climate crisis. Our prime minister Sheikh Hasina has asked for reparations in her speech at the COP26 summit, so did many other leaders from the Global South. There needs to be a transparent financing system, but the biggest historical emitters in the Global North should not have all the say in this new system because as history has shown, the system they built is still deeply colonial.

To ensure justice for the Global South, world leaders must understand their responsibility.

The current system is widening the inequality gap – it has no place in our society. The media and activists from the Global North need to pass the microphone to MAPA and indigenous communities. Acknowledging their privileges is the very least they can do as a gesture of solidarity.