With warnings about the effects of runaway greenhouse gas emissions on our planet growing increasingly dire, the climate crisis is already driving displacements of people from their homes and disproportionately impacting poorer countries.
The disparity has climate and immigration rights activists working together to address the challenge of transitioning to a carbon-free economy in a way that is fair and equitable to the most vulnerable communities in the world.
Leaders from around the world are meeting to discuss climate change at the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP 25) as the issue becomes an increasingly hot topic around the globe.
Setting the stage for the conference, Oxfam, a coalition of independent charitable organizations, released a report last month detailing the disproportionate effects of the climate crisis on poor countries which generally contribute the least to global greenhouse gas emissions.
“We’re just trying to turn the focus towards the fact that even of the global financial flows from richer countries to poorer countries for climate change, the vast majority are for mitigation,” Jesse Young, Oxfam America’s climate policy lead told The Globe Post. “Very little of them flow to adaptation and even less to loss and damage.”
Loss and Damage
According to Oxfam’s report, 80 percent of all people displaced in the last decade live in Asia, home to 60 percent of the world’s population and a third of people suffering in extreme poverty.
The report also found that natural disasters – projected to become more severe and frequent as the planet warms – are more than four times more likely to displace people in low and lower middle income countries like India and Bolivia than those who live in wealthier countries like the United States.
During COP25, the United Nations is set to conclude a review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, which was established in 2013 to promote approaches to address loss and damage associated with climate change. The Oxfam report calls for a loss and damage fund that would help poor communities rebuild and recover from climate shocks.
“We believe there should be dedicated funding for loss and damage,” Young said. “As with everything in climate change, the impacts are disproportionate on small island developing states and poorer low lying countries.”
Speaking on the COP25 summit, Young said Oxfam does not expect any countries to increase their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions until 2020 or later, but hopes the summit will serve as a reminder of the political imperative and the urgency of the problems caused by the climate crisis.
Climate and Migration
According to estimates by the International Organization for Migration, the number of climate migrants will range from 25 million up to a billion by 2050.
In its forecasts, IOM notes there is “great uncertainty” about the exact number of refugees which will vary depending on several factors including which climate scenarios are borne out and which adaptation measures are taken, as well as a variety of other factors.
As world leaders continue to discuss solutions for the climate crisis at COP25, activists are demanding a “just transition” to ensure no communities are left behind in the transition to a sustainable future.
Daylon Prochaska, the national political director of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike, told The Globe Post that a range of social interventions including cooperation with the immigrant and women’s reproductive rights movements will be necessary in order to secure a just transition. Prochaska criticized what he called a total lack of leadership from the “supposed Western countries” in assisting refugees.
“There is a very deep connection between the climate justice movement and the struggles of immigrants and refugees,” Prochaska said. “What we’re seeing now already is an increase in climate refugees because the climate crisis is … already hurting and harming tons of communities and countries in the global South.”
The latest example of the immigrant rights/climate justice connection came Friday afternoon when on the same day as a global climate strike, activists from the Jewish led immigrant rights group Never Again Action shut down the Washington D.C. office of Black Rock Inc.
Black Rock is a global investment management company that is the top investor in coal worldwide and a top shareholder in two companies which run numerous ICE detention centers. Jedidjah de Vries, who organized the demonstration, told The Globe Post that roughly 40 demonstrators blocked the entrances to the facility, prompting Black Rock workers to “close up shop and call it a day.”
“We think of climate change as something that affects not just the planet but the consequences are very much human,” de Vries said. “We feel that a company like Black Rock Inc. is profiting from causing a problem on the climate side and then profiting again by selling a carceral and inhumane solution to the chaos they have just caused.”