Latin America and the Caribbean are witnessing devastating effects of climate change – from the degradation of the Amazon and rampant biodiversity loss to forest fires, drought, glacial melt and ever more violent hurricanes.
The true impact of this crisis must be understood within the context of corporate land grabs and deforestation, legal and illegal mining and logging, corruption and state capture that have long plagued the region and accelerated environmental damage.
People already disadvantaged by unjust policies are now disproportionately affected by the extreme weather, fuelled by current and historic use of fossil fuels in wealthy nations. As the climate crisis deepens, so do humanitarian crises, rights abuses and global inequality.
Walton Webson, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the UN and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States, said in the Guardian: “Our islands are bearing the heaviest burden of a crisis we did not cause … We are experiencing climate impacts that become more and more extreme with each passing year.”
That’s why the Guardian launches today Southern Frontlines – reporting on climate justice in Latin America and the Caribbean, a series on and from the most vulnerable communities in this region. We will be looking at the toll on people’s health and livelihoods and highlighting the voices of those who are fighting back in the most dangerous countries in the world to be environmental defenders.
Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, people are rallying behind environmental protection projects, reforestation programmes, sustainable development, job creation and promoting justice and equal rights for Indigenous peoples. Amid political turmoil and threats to democracy, civil society is demanding more commitment from public authorities to address the climate crisis.
Communities are transforming, with a heightened sense of autonomy and a growing awareness that the fate of Latin America and the Caribbean rests with their people. This brings an increased demand for transparency in politics, integrity in public governance, stricter control over lobbies and heightened scrutiny of corporate interests.
Like the rest of the world, Latin America and the Caribbean face a significant task in combating the consequences of climate breakdown.
The planet needs strategies to preserve the region’s biomes, such as the Amazon, the Pantanal tropical wetlands, the Cerrado savannah, the Atlantic forest, the Andes, the Gran Chaco lowlands and the Caribbean islands, among so many others. It needs controlled and diminishing exploitation of fossil fuels and minerals and less destructive farming.
Southern Frontlines will cover deforestation, drought and water scarcity, mining and its impacts, pollution and public health, energy and the energy transition, but also issues from the region’s people – Indigenous land rights, gender, migration, natural disasters and government responses, and sustainable urban development.
The challenges for climate justice are vast in Latin America and the Caribbean. This series is our attempt to focus in depth on these issues and on the people living on the climate frontlines, through our independent and trusted journalism.