Why Migration Should Be Central to Paris COP21 Climate Talks

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By Harsha Walia
November 25, 2015

Climate refugees and displaced peoples bear the brunt of environmental violence.

“We live in constant fear of the adverse impacts of climate change. For a coral atoll nation, sea level rise and more severe weather events loom as a growing threat to our entire population. The threat is real and serious, and is of no difference to a slow and insidious form of terrorism against us.” - Prime Minister of Tuvalu Saufatu Sapo’aga at the United Nations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, world leaders are closing their borders to refugees and cracking down on civil society participation in the upcoming climate negotiations. Over the past 15 years, the War on Terror has allowed for increased state powers while curbing fundamental rights, especially of racialized bodies marked as threats. Meanwhile, violence against the majority of humanity – including the devastation caused by climate change in places like Tuvalu – continues on with international impunity.

Tuvalu is one of dozens of low-lying Pacific Islands threatened with total submersion as catastrophic warming causes ocean levels to rise drastically. Over one-fifth of Tuvaluans have already been forced to flee and the government of Tuvalu has been urging the U.N. to heed the impending disaster in Tuvalu. Despite having the world’s highest emission per capita, Tuvalu’s neighbor, Australia, has so far refused to accept Tuvaluans as climate refugees.

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