I arrived at the Hemicycle of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium for the Beyond Growth conference with one goal at heart — to add my voice and presence to the need for inclusivity and a global approach to solving global problems. It is time to abandon the Eurocentric view of world engagement and acknowledge the only solution at our disposal — global multilateralism. One spectacular thing I witnessed is the consciousness and leadership of young people fighting in the forefront for a more equal, just, and progressive world.
The call for a decolonial mindset and an inclusive outlook toward progress has never been this strong. For there to be post-growth progress, Europe and the other parts of the West must approach degrowth/all post-growth considerations and consciousness with a mantra of leaving no one behind, it’s either all of us or none of us. There’s no other option, any such created and imagined option is a fallacy of the dreamland. Is it on climate change and its consequences, migration and the crisis arising from it, or justice and human rights? Technology? There’s no We versus Them.
But what does it mean to degrowth? Or “beyond growth?” The conference brief captures it, “the debate on going beyond growth aims to steer policy-making towards multiple economic, social and environmental goals rather than treating growth as an end in itself.”
Those of us from Africa may want to say we have not achieved satisfactory growth, talk more of degrowth. Right there, is the concern, and right there is the need for inclusivity. Degrowth from the West is acknowledging the need to stop acquiring, taking over, grabbing and focusing on reinvestment into progressive stability across the board, and across the world — socio-economically, politically, and culturally.
A panelist had just announced that carbon offsets are self-deceptive, condoling bad behavior. This is true, but there are other sides of the story I have been thinking about. It is the carbon credits. Africa contributes less than 4% of the global carbon emissions, but we are major among those suffering climate crisis, and it will soon consume everyone unless we put on a more deliberate approach. Who is causing climate change? Your guess is as good as mine — everyone, yeah, but Europe and North America carry the trophy. When it started? Researchers have dated Anthropocene from the beginning of slavery down to colonialism to this modern-day imperialism.
Since carbon emissions are not stopping due to mostly slow implementation of diversification and corrupt capitalism, Africa is asking the big polluters to pay us, so we can plant more trees and green more energy. The Africa Carbon Markets Initiative launched last year aims at among many other things, “Produce 300 million carbon credits annually by 2030, and 1.5 billion credits annually by 2050; Unlock 6 billion in revenue by 2030 and over 120 billion by 2050; Support 30 million jobs by 2030 and over 110 million jobs by 2050; Distribute revenue equitably and transparently with local communities.”
I think this sounds like a fair request, and a fair play at multilateralism or Africa’s inclusion. It provides us with economic benefits and some sort of compensation while satisfying significant offset targets.
Now the question is, do carbon credits encourage “bad behavior”? I’m afraid so. I think so because we cannot embrace an adaptation that for the most part, discourages mitigation. We cannot fail to tackle from the root. While compensation is a brilliant idea, the consequences of emissions are not prevented.
Carbon credits are like every other aspect of capitalism, a market of bidders, and buyers. For good, you may think, but have you considered the overriding interest associated with power, control and money, largely embedded in colonial thinking? Of course, not from the African side, but from the guy ready to pay. They are always ready to pay — if I can continue burning fossil fuel, engaging in other forms of exploits that harm the environment, making billions in dollars, and just have to pay some millions for trees to be planted in Malawi or Togo or Congo, why won’t I? It is not that hard to get some African nation with carbon credits to accept my bid, is it? I can even add a title of an environmental champion to my name, the company greening the environment with trees or some other sort of green compensation, this is despite leaving a significant and alarming carbon footprint. I think I agree — carbon offsets and carbon credits are not going to take us to the net-zero ambition or stop the blood-sucking capitalism coated in imperialism. It is a dream far from our economic liberty and environmental solution. It is a good means whose end obviously shows disaster, not because of the idea, but because it is implemented without first, an end to any form of colonialism.
We must decolonize and kill imperialism before we can succeed in building institutions that strengthen global progress and our journey to transition. This impacts across the board, just think of the top 5 global concerns you have. Let me re-echo the activists' stand as re-established inside the Hemicycle of the European Parl: we must ensure “indigenous rights,” “Commonize land,” “Decommodify food,” “Abolish borders…” only then, can we achieve a progressive degrowth.
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