By Yessenia Funes

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its final report Monday. The Frontline explores the significance of the sixth report finally naming “colonialism” as a historical and ongoing driver of the climate crisis.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its first report in 1990. Over 30 years later, the word “colonialism” finally made its way into the IPCC’s sixth assessment report. The panel’s working group two report, which looks at the impacts of climate change on people, listed colonialism not only as a driver of the climate crisis but also as an ongoing issue that is exacerbating communities’ vulnerability to it.

The addition of one word may not seem like a big deal—but don’t be fooled. This is major. The IPCC publishes a summary for policymakers alongside every report. This is the document world leaders look to when they’re in the thick of negotiations at COP, the annual U.N. climate meeting. The summary’s final language is meticulously scrutinized and discussed line by line—and not just by the world’s top scientists, but also by officials representing 195 governments. That means that officials and scientists from around the globe now recognize the significant role colonialism has played in heating up our planet and destroying its many gifts.


“It’s about time.”

That was Adrien Salazar’s reaction when he saw that “colonialism” finally made it into the IPCC report last month. Salazar is the policy director for Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, which is made up of over 60 groups advocating for the rights of the most marginalized. 


“Our country [the U.S.] was born out of colonialism and slavery,” Salazar said. “That has been reinforced over generations by policy.”

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