Over the last three weeks, protests have swept the globe in defence of Black lives and against the structural racism which runs rampant through our societies. They have brought to the forefront the deep-rooted inequalities that exist and demand urgent responses. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic is amplifying and compounding injustices that demand swift and unprecedented action from national governments and the international community.
The choices that are being made right now will shape our society for years, if not decades to come. As policymakers take steps to ensure immediate relief and long-term recovery, we urge decision makers to consider the interrelated crises of climate breakdown and forced migration — which were in place long before COVID-19, and now risk being intensified.
In a year that is predicted to be the hottest on record, we have already witnessed numerous climate-related events displacing people from their homes, ranging from the fires in Australia, Cyclone Harold ravaging four Pacific island countries, the largest locust invasion seen in 25 years in East Africa, and heavy rains and flooding in Brazil. Cyclone Amphan, the largest cyclonic storm over the Bay of Bengal since 1999, hit the coasts of India and Bangladesh killing dozens, heavily damaging houses and crops, and disrupting road, rail, and power links. It is estimated that 10 million people may have been affected.
“It was difficult to follow social distancing in the cyclone shelters”
For #WorldRefugeeDay, find out about displacement during a pandemic and join calls for solidarity and community across borders.
— 350 dot org (@350) June 19, 2020
COVID-19, racial injustice and climate breakdown are global crises; the response to them also needs to be global. But whilst COVID-19 has revealed how vulnerable many communities are, it has also shown us how we can respond as a global community in the face of the need for urgent and rapid change. A rapid and coordinated global approach is still missing in the fight against climate breakdown as well as the humanitarian crisis caused by the forced displacement of people.
Around the world, Black, Indigenous, and racialized communities are the ones hardest hit by the climate crisis. We see this from the Inuit communities on the frontlines of climate change in the Arctic, to the millions whose lives are threatened by drought in East Africa. In the Amazon, indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 being brought into remote and protected territories by illegal mineral prospectors and other intruders.
Fossil fuel companies responsible for the vast majority of emissions driving the climate crisis are the same ones pillaging the ancestral lands of Indigenous peoples without their free prior and informed consent.
These industries also disproportionately displace and compromise the health of Black, Indigenous and and poor communities. The most vulnerable communities that are currently coping with the pandemic are the same ones that are hardest hit by the impact of climate breakdown
For the millions of people in official refugee camps, informal migrant settlements, and poor urban areas, the pandemic poses a threat that lays bare the inadequacy of current policy approaches to migration.
According to The United Nations Refugee Agency, there are 70.8 million displaced people in the world today, fleeing due to persecution, violence, human rights violations, and environmental disasters.
Long before the global community began to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, vulnerable communities around the world were driven from their homes by droughts, storms, food shortages, political and economic strife, and conflicts exacerbated by climate disasters.
There is no just recovery for climate, without addressing the systemic extraction, harm and violence towards Black, Indigenous, and racialized communities. Fighting climate change is about much more than emissions and scientific metrics – it’s about fighting for a just and sustainable world that works for all of us.
The clock is ticking for our planet and our communities. Only by seeing these issues as inherently connected can we rise up to demand a fair and just world.