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  • Writer's pictureBarrie Wilkinson

Climate justice

The idea that those that contributed least to climate change are likely to suffer the most at the hands of climate change is widely accepted. Wealthier countries have contributed more than their fair share of emissions throughout history and are in a better financial position to help finance the necessary response to deal with climate change. In today's post I interview Rupal Sachdev Kantaria, a Partner at Oliver Wyman and a member of the Oliver Wyman Forum about issues as diverse as climate refugees and air pollution. Rupal is a strong advocate for ensuring that a diverse set of voices are heard and believes that this is particularly relevant in the climate space given that it is often the communities that currently lack a voice that stand to lose most in adverse climate scenarios.

The link between climate change, migration and conflict

The IPCC scientific community describe the link between climate and people migration as follows:

It's a complex problem but it shows that it is an over-simplification to assume that refugees are being driven solely by war/conflict. It seems likely that climate change is going to continue to amplify problems around food insecurity leading to further conflict as people battle for increasingly scarce resources.

Mass migration appears to be increasing through time

The below data shows from the UNHCR shows that mass migration has been increasing during the last decade or so.

It would be easy to point at one particular conflict but in many areas there has been a fairly constant stream of refugees over many years. Rupal told stories of migration in her own family and that we don't necessarily need to reach the extreme scenario of desertification before people start to move on mass to seek a better life.

Most people are migrating from areas of the world with similar conditions

Let's first examine the below chart showing where people are migrating from:

If we now compare that pattern the satellite data below we see that a lot of refugees are coming from places with "bare/sparse vegetation" meaning that they are more likely to suffer from food insecurity:

Rupal and I then zoomed into Syria as a recent case study of mass migration. The narrative coming from the media is that Syria is a war-torn region, which is clearly true but there is an alternative narrative which predates the conflict describing how hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers were forced form their land as a result of them no longer being able to grow crops on the land.

It is also clear from looking at a map of Syria above that refugees would have a strong tendency to move north to find food rather than to move into the desert regions in the south.

If we look at the data on the destination of refugees we see a general tendency to head north but also to move into neighboring countries which could be a source of further conflict.

Air pollution

In the latter part of the discussion we moved onto air pollution and the broader topic of companies needing to address issue in their supply chains rather than just cleaning up their emissions at home. Rupal drew parallels with the way corporations were forced to clean up their image around overseas "sweat shops" and that corporate responsibility will now extend to a similar clean-up of emissions in overseas factories.

The chart below is an illustration of how the UK has effectively exported it's poor air quality to places like India as manufacturing jobs have been moved abroad:


It is clear that Rupal and I only touched the surface of some very big and complex topics in our discussion but it is also clear to me that we need to mobilize quickly and in a coordinated fashion to tackle some of these very pressing issues. No one country or corporation can tackle this alone but I would encourage everyone involved in these topics to start to broaden their perspective by including more voices in the discussion and to start to involve those communities that stand to be most affected. Rupal also pointed out the places like India are hotbeds on innovation so we also need to think about how to empower some of these communities to help drive the solutions.

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