What is the link between climate change and contemporary slavery?

Week of 12 April 2021

What is the link between climate change and contemporary slavery?

Our key takeaway: Climate change increases modern slavery, but in turn we can tackle climate change by empowering migrants and vulnerable people. Let’s switch the vicious circle to a virtuous circle.

Three key points:

According to research conducted by Anti-Slavery International and Dublin City University:

    • Climate change and environmental destruction are driving vulnerability to contemporary slavery. Specifically, the impacts of climate change are destabilising communities and driving internal and cross-border migration; the world’s poorest people are especially vulnerable to climate variability and environmental degradation due to their reliance on forests and natural resources; and without adequate tools and supports for the vulnerable, those pushed into migration are at risk of being exploited and abused.
    • The authors call for an integrated social, economic and environmental response to build resilience. This response includes a number of components, including (but not limited to) adopting an integrated rights-based approach to tackling the climate, biodiversity and environmental crises and acting urgently to reduce emissions in wealthier countries via a just transition away from fossil fuels in favour of renewable alternatives that are environmentally sustainable and respect human rights. Authors also call for introducing mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence laws with strong liability provisions at national and regional levels, and a legally binding international treaty to cover global trade and supply chains, as well as adopting participatory and inclusive decision-making processes at all levels to ensure the meaningful participation of workers, affected groups and vulnerable communities.
    • Shifting towards a virtuous cycle will entail empowering communities, regulating public and private entities and listening to workers, protecting the environment and differentiated climate action. The report concludes with a number of recommendations for governments in poorer and climate-vulnerable countries, governments in richer countries and multilateral bodies.

For more, see Anti-Slavery, From a Vicious to a Virtuous Cycle: Addressing climate change, environmental destruction and contemporary slavery (April 2021).

The vicious circle of climate change, vulnerability, exploitation and environmental destruction: