Migration is a climate issue is an ESG issue

Human Rights, Climate disruption

The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report assesses the impacts of climate change, considering ecosystems, biodiversity, and human communities at the global and regional level. Accelerated environmental degradation and migration go hand in hand. This Border & Surveillance Industries Stewardship Project blog explains why climate aware investors can show leadership on migrant rights. 

Extreme weather in Central America, wildfires and drought in North America, flooding across Europe and Asia, and drought in Africa: climate impacts  are already forcing more people to move, destroying infrastructure and livelihoods, threatening food security, and fueling resource-linked conflicts. Climate change and its consequences are not distant risks. They are clear and present events. The new IPCC report is clear:

“Climate change has caused substantial damages, and increasingly irreversible losses, in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal and open ocean marine ecosystems. The extent and magnitude of climate change impacts are larger than estimated in previous assessments.”

The authors estimate that more than three billion people are highly vulnerable to climate change and there is “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity” to mitigate and adapt to climate risk. The UN expects up to 1 billion people will have to migrate in response to extreme climate and environmental impacts by 2050. The new report breaks down these trends across regions, setting out in detail the scenarios different parts of the world might experience in coming years. Authors note that “in Europe, deaths and heat stress will increase two to threefold at 3C compared to 1.5C warming”. In Africa, by 2030, around 120 million people will be exposed to sea level rise in coastal cities, increasing up to 250 million by 2060 with rapid urban growth. With these types of predictions extending to all regions and impacting on food supply and access to drinking water, it is clear that unprecedented human migration will be part of the global climate adaptation story.

A worthwhile read: Friends of the Earth’s new report – Cashing in on Crisis: How the world’s largest investors fuel and profit from climate change and border militarization – highlights how major financial institutions are not only bankrolling corporations responsible for increased greenhouse gas emissions, but also gross human rights abuses, and violations of Indigenous peoples and local communities’ rights by facilitating the expansion of the Border and security Industry.

Migration is a climate adaptation strategy 

Indeed, investors may come to understand that human migration is the most widespread strategy for climate adaptation. And with more than 10% of the world’s population soon to be on the move, the human and economic consequences will be drastic, complex and most certainly dire. 

Those investors who have committed to climate action or to aligning their investment strategies with the SDGs also have a unique window of opportunity to address migration and migrant rights as ethical, systemic, and material issues. 

Investors should support mitigation by reducing emissions to curb climate impacts AND support adaptation, by enabling safe migration pathways

In order to prevent more people having to move to find safety and security for themselves and their families, investors need to do all in their power to accelerate emission reductions in order to curb global heating. But this is just the beginning. A complete climate and net zero investment strategy will address the social impacts of climate change. Investors who have committed to climate action, including the institutions in the Glasgow Finance Alliance for Net Zero should speak up on the need for wealthy G7 nations to honor commitments to adaptation financing and supporting countries that face dire impacts and irreversible loss and damage from climate change.

This should include standing up for migrants who are seeking safety and security by crossing borders. Yes, the sheer force of numbers will make this disruption a global humanitarian challenge. But climate-related migration will not be stopped with higher walls, larger weapons, invasive surveillance or divisive rhetoric. It is worth taking a step back: climate change is the real global threat, not the people fleeing extreme weather conditions, political instability and conflict. 

Can we imagine a billion people transiting through, and often spending years in detention camps? Is it responsible to ignore this reality? Governments have already committed to a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration. There is even a global mayor’s climate migration initiative to prepare cities for the future of increased human mobility. The private sector, which increasingly manages borders and migrants  on behalf of governments in North America and Europe, has yet to formulate an adequate response. According to market analysts, the global border security system market is expected to grow to $51.4 billion by 2024, as spending to harden borders increases.  Investors have an opportunity to respond to work at the UN, and by NGOs that explain the legal, reputational and ethical risks linked to ongoing privatization of immigration control, surveillance, and detention systems.

As countries such as the UK consider adopting Australia’s approach to the use of internment camps for asylum seekers in third countries, including potential for indefinite detention in high-cost privately run prisons, now is the time for investors to develop a suitable global engagement plan for companies in sectors participating in border control contracting and influencing public policy. This includes logistics, software, border control, migrant detention and surveillance companies, including some of the largest listed companies in the world, and smaller private players in the defense, border security and surveillance industries.

Investors can now use their voice and stewardship muscle to stand up for migrant rights, and advocate for a more open, humane and effective migration policy, particularly at the G7. We invite all investors committed to climate action and a more efficient, equitable and human global migration system to get in touch to learn more and contribute to solutions.

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