Immigrant communities are on the frontlines of nearly every aspect of the climate crisis as it reshapes our economy, politics, and lives. In the United States, immigrant communities are among those hit first and worst by climate impacts and extreme weather. Too often our communities are left behind or left out of disaster recovery, adaptation efforts, and excluded from the emerging green economy. Globally, climate change is already one of the largest root causes of migration, with three times more people displaced by weather-related disasters than conflict in 2020.
As climate change accelerates, so too does the global trend towards authoritarianism. When immigrants are discussed in the context of climate change, it is most often as the threat of billions of climate migrants arriving in the Global North. When climate-displaced people are painted as a bigger threat than climate change, nativist political movements can propel and popularize authoritarian solutions to the climate crisis, like increased border militarization or dismantling the right to seek asylum.
Immigrant rights organizations must join the movement to win major action to slow climate change and mitigate its impacts. Our response to the climate crisis can instead strengthen multiracial democracy and increase prosperity for all. We can organize in response to the increasing impacts of climate change with a vision for climate action rooted in abundance, compassion, and pluralism.
That’s why in 2022 we launched the Climate Justice Collaborative – to build the capacity of the immigrant justice movement to join the fight for climate justice and to defend the rights of people displaced by the climate crisis. We can fight to ensure that climate policy is inclusive of immigrants, that immigrant and other frontline communities are protected from the worst impacts of climate change, and that the U.S. is a global leader on preparing for and welcoming migrants displaced by climate change.
Equity in Resilience and Recovery:
Immigrant communities in the United States are disproportionately impacted by extreme weather and other climate impacts in their homes, communities and workplaces. Although we are living and working on the frontlines of climate disasters we are often left out of recovery and adaptation. The Climate Justice Collaborative is working to protect immigrants and refugees from the worst impacts of climate change through building power with communities who have recently experienced or are vulnerable to climate disasters and advocating for equitable policies and programs, at the local, state, and federal level.
Safe Pathways for Climate Displaced People:
As the impacts of climate change accelerate, and disproportionately impact countries in the Global South, migration is a solution and necessary adaptation to climate change. We must advocate for new and expanded pathways for climate-displaced people to migrate safely and with dignity when it is no longer possible to stay in their homes. We must also organize against the rise of authoritarianism and ecofascism that proposes border walls and detention as solutions to the climate crisis. The Climate Justice Collaborative is focusing on three core strategies to build broad public support for climate-displaced people and expanded migration pathways: organizing, narrative change, and coalition building. One essential piece of this work is centering and investing in the leadership of climate-displaced people already living in the United States.
Immigrant Communities in the Just Transition to Clean Energy:
To stop climate change, the United States needs to aggressively reduce climate pollution and transition to a clean energy economy.We are inspired by the vision of the Green New Deal, that this transition can further racial and economic justice, and create millions of good, green jobs. We believe that through the fight to win and create that future, we can strengthen our multiracial democracy and shared prosperity in this country. But we know that reducing pollution alone will not deliver racial and economic justice, but that we need to fight for equitable implementation and a truly just transition. Right now, immigrants and people of color are even more underrepresented in these new sectors than the economy as a whole. The Climate Justice Collaborative is working to leverage the strength and political power of our membership network to unlock state climate justice wins and be an accelerant for national climate policy victories, and ensure that immigrant communities have access to good, green jobs.
Building Power from the Ground Up
We believe any effective movement strategy to align immigrant and climate justice movements, address climate change and its impacts on frontline communities, and prepare for a future of increased migration, must be rooted in local power-building organizations.
In October 2022, we launched our first cohort of six NPNA member organizations who we are partnering with to advance our three core issue areas at the state and local level. Together, we will create models and resources to scale across our movement.