A number of African activists were listening in to President Joe Biden’s major climate summit this week at which 40 world leaders were invited. Biden’s summit capped a key theme of his first 100 days in the White House: reassuring allies they could once again count on the U.S. as a reliable, trustworthy and stable partner.

Among the listeners was Kumi Naidoo, special adviser for the Green Economy Coalition’s Social Contract Initiative, and Dipti Bhatnagar of Friends of the Earth International.

Naidoo, former head of Amnesty International and Greenpeace, claimed that foot dragging, particularly on the part of the United States, not only with Trump but with previous administrations, has left the world basically at one minute to midnight in terms of the climate crisis.

“When developing countries in the Global South are asking for support, whether it’s Asia, Africa, Latin America, Middle East, Caribbean, we’re not asking for charity,” he said. “We’re simply saying, ‘Let’s recognize the history of this problem, that Europe, North America and other developed countries built their economy on dirty energy.’”

“We’re asking for redress. We’re asking for recompense. And we’re asking for rich countries to pay their climate debt,” said Naidoo. “The statistics are clear in terms of the volume of carbon emissions.”

Dipti Bhatnagar turned to a new Global Climate Ambition Initiative which reads in part: “The U.S. government will support developing countries in establishing net-zero [emission] strategies.”

But “net zero, basically, is a corporate strategy,” she said. “It’s put forward by the most polluting corporations in the world. And all these corporations suddenly have stepped up with these net zero targets. And you wonder: why are they suddenly so eager to come with a target, where they’ve actually squashed climate science for decades?”

“It’s because net zero allows them to get away with continuing to pollute, continuing business as usual, because what net zero says is that we can suck the carbon back out of the atmosphere.

So this is about offsets, about so-called sequestering carbon. And whose land, whose forests are they going to so-called use for the offsets? Whose rivers and lakes are they actually going to use to sequester this carbon? It’s coming to our countries in the Global South.

“It’s coming to communities who are using their lands, their forests, their rivers to stay alive. And what net zero is going to do is trigger a huge land grab, more than that is happening already, in our countries of the Global South.

“So commodifying nature is the next market. And that’s something we are really, really fighting against.”