Climate Action Movements in Latin America

Climate Action Movements in Latin America: Templates for a Just Transition

by Paul Almeida


Latin American campaigns for environmental justice serve in a vanguard role as a model to move forward amid an accelerating global climate crisis. In particular, active participation in the international climate movement and institutionalized climate action, community level struggles over raw material, fossil fuel and green economy extraction, and the call for climate reparations place the region in a critical position to offer just transition pathways across the world.

Foundational debates in the pages of Latin American Perspectives provide the broad contours for the current climate struggle. These exchanges include Dependency Theory (Chilcote, 1974; Gunder Frank, 1974) and Extractivism (Farthing and Fabricant, 2018). Former Latin American Perspectives Honorary Editor, James O’Connor, also centered political economy of the environment discussions by focusing on the second contradiction of capitalism or the undermining of ecological conditions for continued economic growth and sustainability (O’Connor, 1988). These theoretical contributions have evolved and become incorporated into ecologically unequal exchange theory in terms of the climate crisis. An ecological debt is owed to Latin American populations and the broader global South via under-valued resource extraction, pollution, global warming and associated damages generated by northern states’ GHG emissions (Martinez-Alier, 2002; Roberts and Parks, 2007; Jorgenson, 2007). Indeed, Latin America only generates nine percent of global carbon emissions (Santelices Spikin and Rojas Hernández, 2016), but suffers increasing climate vulnerabilities of drought, crop loss, flooding, wildfires, deforestation, monster hurricanes, excessive heat waves, and vector-borne diseases (e.g., dengue). All of the above climate risks are especially experienced among marginalized and subaltern groups producing further hardships and displacements.

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