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29th Jun 2022

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Magic Magid: The paradox at the heart of EU's Green Deal

  • Former Green MEP from the UK, 'compassionate disrupter' Magid 'Magic' Magid (Photo: European Parliament)
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Magid Magid describes himself as a "compassionate disrupter". That's how he made his mark in Brussels (and beyond) during his short but very visible pre-Brexit stint at the European Parliament representing Yorkshire and the Humber.

And it is through compassion, empathy and disruptive ideas that he is now drawing attention to the Union of Justice, the organisation he founded in March 2020 to press for climate justice for marginalised Europeans of colour.

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  • European black and brown citizens are usually the most acutely-impacted by environmental degradation, toxic chemicals and pollution (Photo: Magid Magid)

There is an unspoken paradox at the heart of the European Green Deal, according to Magid.

European black and brown citizens are usually the most acutely-impacted by environmental degradation, toxic chemicals and pollution. Yet their predicament goes unnoticed, and their voice is never heard.

"Either European policymakers really don't care about what is happening to marginalised communities — which are massively overexposed to pollutants which impact health and wellbeing — or they are not willing to actually do something about these injustices," Magid tells me during a chat on Zoom.

Having first gained celebrity as Sheffield's youngest mayor, followed by his interventions in the European Parliament as a member of the Green group, "Magic Magid" is now using his fame to turn the spotlight on the different ways in which Europeans of colour can become part of an inclusive climate conversation.

As well as being at the forefront of growing calls for recognition in Europe of the intimate link between the climate crisis, inequality and race, Magid, who came to the UK with his mother, a Somali refugee, when he was five, is also engaged in the wider problem of climate justice for the Global South.

Racism, inequality and climate are interconnected, says Magid. Impacts of the climate crisis exacerbate existing social and related racial inequities — and climate policies, unless crafted with an eye on such issues, can make things worse.

As it progresses in crafting Green Deal policies, the EU must make a conscious effort to acknowledge the interconnectedness of racial and climate injustice, and explicit efforts to address this, he says.

Low-income communities across Europe are on the frontline of climate impacts, yet receive the least support for prevention, mitigation adaptation, building resilience, or reparations for ongoing losses and damages.

Magid's Union of Justice is about changing that paradigm. With a small team of volunteers, the organisation is working to train people with the campaigning and public speaking skills they need to get their message across to the wider public and to lobby their elected representatives.

It is not just about writing reports, but about the need for actual research which charts the cumulative environmental impacts of the climate crisis on communities of colour in Europe.

There have been active efforts by researchers to assess environmental hazards and whom it impacts in different regions of Europe. However, data gaps persist, Magid warns. As a result, communities of colour continue to be overlooked and denied reparative justice for the environmental hazards they are exposed to.

New two-year project

With this in mind, Magid has embarked on a two-year research project funded by the Open Society Foundation which he says will enable deeper understanding of the climate crisis and how it intersects with racial inequality.

The project will begin by studying the impact of the climate crisis and the EU Green Deal on communities of colour in Ireland, UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Portugal. The impact of extractive exploitation each country has inflicted onto the global south due to colonial and post-colonial relations will also be studied.

Magid's plan is to come up with policy recommendations on a regional, national and EU level which can then be disseminated by scholars, experts, civil society actors as well as community members on the front line.

"We will also be creating and delivering an engaging creative communication and public engagement action plan," he says. "It will be like a lifetime's work."

"I'm very aware that another black person who didn't have my background would find it very difficult to do what I am doing. It's easy for me to get meetings with people, to get them to listen to me, basically give me their time," he continues.

One door that remains open is to the office of European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans and his team. Former colleagues at the European Parliament are also in contact and he is in touch with Green networks across Europe.

"We've just been pushing the calls, speaking to people, making presentations to universities and other institutions," he says. "We work with anyone that's interested in the work that we do and in our advancing our cause.

This article first appeared in EUobserver's magazine, War, Peace and the Green Economy, which you can now read in full online.

Author bio

Shada Islam is an independent EU analyst and commentator who runs her own strategy and advisory company New Horizons Project. She is also the new editor of the EUobserver magazine.

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