Deep Dive: Decolonial Perspectives in Climate Policy

Podcast with Marina Caetano and Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco

Colonial legacies continue to shape international cooperation and climate policy. While actors in the climate debates seem to be aware of that, the question remains: what is specifically being done about it?

In this episode researchers Marina Caetano and Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco talk about their study "Analysing Decolonial Climate Perspectives: The Case of the Brazilian Legal Amazon Region" and explain their position that a decolonial perspective needs to be central to the global response to climate change.

Making foreign cultural policy audible.

Background knowledge and answers to global issues delivered by ifa in a podcast format

This episode of the ifa podcast is available on all popular podcast platforms. To make sure you don't miss an episode, it's best to subscribe to "Die Kulturmittler:innen" on your favorite streaming service.

Transcript of this episode

Deep Dive: Decolonial Perspectives in Climate Policy. With Marina Caetano and Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco

Tobias Rohe: Hello and welcome back to "Die Kulturmitler:innen. Deep Dive – Experts on International Cultural Relations". My name is Tobias Rohe and I'm incredibly happy that you are here with me again. In this episode we will be looking at decolonial perspectives in climate policy and climate debates. More specifically, I will be talking with my guests about how decolonial climate perspectives can be analyzed scientifically. And we will do this through the example of the Brazilian Legal Amazon Region. My guests today have published a study on the very topic supported by the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen. It is entitled "Analysing Decolonial Climate Perspectives: The Case of the Brazilian Legal Amazon Region", and it was written by Marina Caetano and Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco. Marina Caetano is an experienced international cooperation professional, involved in projects, especially within the environmental and climate agenda. And Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco is a Brazilian percussionist and consultant working across the cultural, creative and development sectors. Mrs. Caetano, Mr. Franco, it's a pleasure to have you here with me!

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: Thank you, Tobias.

Marina Caetano: It's a pleasure being here, Tobias.

Tobias Rohe: Now, colonial legacies and unequal power relations between countries continue to shape international cooperation, and they do so in climate policy as well. While actors in the climate debate seem to be aware of the colonial entanglements and their effects, the question remains: what is specifically being done about them? And with respect to the Brazilian Legal Amazon Region: How are actors from the region involved in climate policies? In your study, Mrs. Caetano, Mr. Franco, you have addressed these questions. What is the goal of your research project? What are you hoping to achieve with it?

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: Well, we have five different goals divided in three blocks. The first block of goals is the general goal in which we are analysing the climate international relations and climate policies towards the Brazilian Amazon through a decolonial perspective. And then we have two other more specific objectives that are related to the German International Cooperation towards the region, also through a decolonial perspective, through a decolonial lens. And the third one is if Germany has projects and programs related to the region which are connecting culture, education and climate. And the fourth and the fifth ones are recommendations related to creating formats of debate within the German cultural and education foreign police that are embedding climate perspectives. How can we create these projects and programs connecting climate, culture and education through a decolonial and a bottom-up perspective? How do we conceive programs and projects and perhaps even policies that acknowledge the importance of doing things from the bottom up and with a more decolonial perspective?

Tobias Rohe: And would you like to achieve that these kinds of programs are being put into action?

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: Yes, this is obviously our main wish. We have the role of raising the issue and trying to influence the real politics as much as we can. So the German cooperation, the institutions, the stakeholders and organizations that are part of the cooperation [...]. We know that's not easy. It's a long process, but this is our ultimate goal. But obviously throughout the process we also want to influence readers in general and other institutions to become a bit more aware of this connection between climate, culture and education and also aware of decolonial perspective, that it's in great need.

Tobias Rohe: You state in your study that the decolonial perspective needs to be central to the global response to climate change. How are decolonial perspectives and global climate policies connected?

Marina Caetano: It is important to go a little back in the past and making a historical analysis of what "colonial" means in terms of resource exploitation. So if you think about the countries, especially the countries in the Global South that have been exploited through colonization and through the colonization legacies, most of the countries in the Global North develop themselves on top of resource exploitation for the industrial revolution. So for the consumption-driven economies that we have nowadays. Of course there's a big link. And if you think about it historically the historical emitters of CO2, the historical emitters nowadays are located in the Global North. For example, Brazil is nowadays the fifth largest emitter in the world, but it doesn't compare historically to other countries in the Global North that have much larger history as an emitter. When it comes to think about global climate governance in terms of negotiations and so on, of course there are some clashes between those two mindsets of what needs to be rapidly changed and the differentiated responsibilities between those actors that need to have the chains and need to have the climate action done. So there are different points of view. There are discussions on transitioning. I would like to bring one specific example on that. When it comes to energy transition or transitioning public transportation, most countries believe, we have to change to electric cars, for example, but where does the minerals that will supply the batteries for these electric cars come from? So we are talking about critical minerals in Latin America. We are talking of continuously exploiting resources in the region in order to achieve a few of the things that need to be done for Global Climate Action. So this is one example of things that need to be put in perspective in order to have a fair and just transition.

Tobias Rohe: So let's talk about your methodology. How did you approach the research with this connection in mind? What criteria did you set to collect and analyse the data?

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: Well, we have a very multi-layered research. We are dealing with culture, education, climate, decolonization, foreign policy. So there are different perspectives and different actors obviously related to each of these perspectives. We needed to create a methodology which started with desk research. We try to find articles and studies that were talking about decolonization in the Amazon, and we perceived very immediately that we wouldn't be able to find materials written on this topic. So we decided to invest most of our time in the interview. We have done 50+ interviews with so many incredible and different actors ranging from the Brazilian embassy in Germany, the German embassy in Brazil, all the government stakeholders in both countries, but also communities. We have been in the Amazon region last year, in December in which we have done two roundtables, one in Belém of Pará, another one in Manaus. And we also have done some visits and technical visits to talk with other Brazilian indigenous communities and considering multiple voices because we perceived and we realized that our research was a combination of ideas. We are basing ourselves on this collective intelligence to be able to deliver something which represents multiple views. And I think for us it's something that is unstoppable to a certain extent because every interview we discover something new, we discover a new contact. We need to finish this study next month. But we do believe that we are representing these multiple views.

Marina Caetano: I would like to add that the research is about perceptions. We are not here to specifically analyse the impact of a program or initiative supported whether by the German International Cooperation, whether by the European Union, whether by any other country in the Gobal North. We are here to hear the perceptions of people. How do they perceive this work? How do they perceive this program? How does this somehow impact their lives and their understanding on it? So we thought it would be very helpful to bring this kind of perceptions in order to have more transparency in international cooperation fields, in order to advance in some of the things we need to advance.

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: There are also two other things that are important to be mentioned. Many people ask us about it: Why are you working with the Brazilian Legal Amazon? When we developed the research project, we soon realized that it would be necessary to frame it within the Brazilian Legal Amazon. Otherwise we would be having to work with the other countries, which also have the Amazon, and we also needed to focus on a certain amount of institutions from Germany which are active in the cooperation to have a bit more focus in the research.

Marina Caetano: And just to end up this part, I think why the Amazon [...] in climate is because the main emissions from Brazil come from deforestation differently from other countries that for example, usually are in energy emissions or industry related emissions. In Brazil, most of the emissions come from land use. So that's why halting deforestation in the Amazon, finding ways of developing the region in a more sustainable way, is very important to halt and to reduce Brazilian emissions. And of course it connects to climate change as a whole.

Tobias Rohe: Now, having talked about your critique of colonial entanglements in climate policies earlier on, what would a decolonized approach in climate diplomacy look like?

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: First, we need to ask ourselves, is it possible to have such a thing in place? Facing so many power imbalances in this world. Our research is a seed for thought and a seed for provocation. Sometimes we take for granted that Western and the so-called developed countries, are there to support us in the Global South, in the so-called underdeveloped or in development countries. But we are dealing with something that requires a deep structural change. And this structural change needs to start with changing our mindsets. So we are doing research, which has a lot to do with foreigners raising. We want to make people aware of this power imbalances. We want to put a bit in the spotlight the power relationships that countries sometimes exert over another. And in the case of Brazil and Germany, it's interesting to mention that Brazil was a former colony of Portugal. And for this reason, many Brazilians and Germans think that there is no colonial relationship between these two countries. But we are also talking about mental colonization, economic colonization, all these perspectives that are existing in these imbalanced relationship. These are things we are provoking to see what this can unleash in practice.

Tobias Rohe: So you said that you want to plant a seed of thought, but do you think there is a way to ensure that decolonized approaches in climate policies can be institutionalized?

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: I think civil societies worldwide are putting pressure on these topics and we do believe, we do hope that countries are going to be put on the wall to talk about it and to admit certain things to create reparation schemes. We have seen that in the COP. With this awareness, with this changing mentality, we have this expectation that more and more things will be in place. It's very idealistic, but I think we need to be idealistic in this conversation. Otherwise we will be watching things the way they are and they are not leading us to a good direction.

Marina Caetano: If you think about the early past, like the past 30 years in the research, we also established a few milestones. In 1992 we had the differentiated responsibilities. And then in Paris Agreement, we had a bottom up approach stated in the agreement we had much more conversations on climate justice, on environmental racism. So you see things are moving and those discussions, they are in debate. They are being much more considered. And when you look at the work of the International Cooperation as a whole, those questions are also stated. It doesn't mean they are changing fastly, but it means that the debate is there and people are more aware of it.

Tobias Rohe: And what does that mean for international cultural relations? How can they support climate foreign policy?

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: I think culture plays a crucial role in this discussion because we tend to see things through different silos, the silo of culture, the silo of education, the silo of climate. And I do believe it's very necessary to think more holistically and transversally. And in this transversal conversation, cultural institutions have a very important power to talk with people, to convince, to raise awareness, to bring people together, to connect people through means that are enjoyable, that are lighter. Let's imagine a play at the street talking about the issue of climate change. It's very likely that a citizen commuting thing will stop. We will see and we will get informed through this play or through this act at the street, much more than stopping at home and reading an article, an academic article et cetera. So I think culture has a power to deliver the message, to conceive a message to influence people and to bring people together.

Tobias Rohe: Let's take a look at the political context of your work. You started your study in a time of political change in Brazil and in Germany. The study started in August 2022, while Jair Bolsonaro was still Brazilian president, and it was delivered after Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was elected. Did this impact your approach?

Marina Caetano: So it did not directly impact our approach, but it definitely brought more reflections. And while we were writing in January, the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, went to Brazil and was talking about international cooperation advancing in a few topics with Brazil and brought ideas to the table. So we were like, okay, we cannot add anything because there is a time frame that we need to follow for this research. But it definitely brought us the attention on how things rapidly change when there is political will. For example, the Amazon Fund was frozen for three years, which is a very important mechanism of the International Cooperation supported mainly by Norway and in Germany, was back into action in a few weeks. Other countries are coming to support the fund. So it is very impressive how political will might really change. It doesn't necessarily mean that in Brazil things will change fast into climate action, but it definitely means more open dialogue for international cooperation. And especially within Germany, which is a historical partner of Brazil and environmental projects in climate projects. And I think it is a very good timing for reflecting on what worked, what didn't work in this partnership, and what could both countries improve and learn from the past.

Tobias Rohe: Talking about this relationship, how can Germany strengthen its partnership with Brazil when it comes to environmental and climate issues in this potentially new phase?

Marina Caetano: I think they already started like jumping like Lula started running as president in the beginning of January. By the end of January, Chancellor Scholz was there with a big delegation and every month there is a new German political delegation or business delegation coming to Brazil. So there's a lot of interest in exchanging and learning from each other. What are the next steps of this cooperation? This is the first thing and it's already being done. It's the dialogue. There is a role for Germany, but there is also a role for Brazil, which is positioning themselves. What do we want in terms of cooperation? So what is important for our priorities? One thing that is very necessary in terms of legacy of international cooperation is connecting it to the public policies Brazil needs. So for example deforestation, innovation. So things that the German international cooperation could support. But in terms of leaving a legacy, not leaving, as we said, that skeletons and not leaving a legacy of a three year project, that when the international cooperation is out, this project finishes because there is no sustainability to it. Thinking on the long term is very important and understanding what the priorities of the country connect with the priorities of Germany. I think this would be my guess.

Tobias Rohe: So that's politics and economics. And what about researchers? How can they in general help reduce power imbalances in international cooperation?

Marina Caetano: I think the first thing is that we have to consider there is a power imbalance in research worldwide in which you have much more articles coming from the Global North. For example, in climate, most of the research being done is performed by the Global North. So of course it has an impact as well in the global climate policies because it mainly comes with perspectives from the Global North. It's very important to consider Global South researchers in the conversations and the debates, in congresses and conferences. Bringing reflections, proposition reflections into the research and trying always to connect with real life. Because we know that sometimes in academic research you are working on something in a very specific topic, and then by the end of the day it ends up in a drawer after being reviewed. And it's it's only for a very small audience. So I think the role of the researchers is to bring light to what they are doing, try to adapt the language to reach a broader audience.

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: Connecting it even more to the region we are focusing on that's the Brazilian Amazon. We perceived during the research that researchers and people doing academic work from the region are also somehow undervalued internationally, but also within Brazil. We usually have researchers and consultants and the so-called experts coming from Rio, coming from Sao Paulo and Brasília. And these are the ones usually talking about the Amazon. And there are many good people in the region that are wishing to represent themselves, that are wishing to have a say in this whole conversation about climate policy, about climate relations, about culture, about education. So one of the things we are recommending and advocating is that Germany can focus even more programs towards the region. So that both sides cooperating with each other will have a better understanding of each other. And we are pretty sure that this could be very beneficial for both sides.

Tobias Rohe: This were Marina Caetano and Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco on their scientific analysis of Decolonial Perspectives on Climate Policy in the Brazilian Legal Amazon Region. Thank you very much for this enlightening conversation.

Marina Caetano: Thank you for having us here.

Pedro Affonso Ivo Franco: Thank you, Tobias.

Tobias Rohe: I hope that you enjoyed this Deep Dive episode of "Die Kulturmittler:innen" and I would be delighted if you tuned in next time when I will be talking to more experts on international cultural relations. If you liked this episode, don't hesitate to share it with your friends. To make sure that you don't miss out on future episodes, subscribe to "Die Kulturmittler:innen" right away. You can do that wherever you listen to the shows of your choice, whether it's on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Deezer or Amazon Music. And while you're there, don't forget to listen to our regular episodes of "Die Kulturmittler:innen" with dozens of in-depth conversations on the topic of culture and foreign policy. If you want to check out the whole study or learn more about ifa's Forum for International Cultural Relations, you will find useful links in the show notes. For more information on our organization, ifa – Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, visit our website That's all from my side. I say thank you for listening. My name is Tobias Rohe. See you next time.


Feel free to contact us for topic requests or feedback.


Charlottenplatz 17
D-70173 Stuttgart