Communities from minority ethnic backgrounds in Europe are hit hardest by the climate crisis, says European Network Against Racism.

A report published by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a Europe-wide coalition of NGOs campaigning against discrimination, has found that communities from minority ethnic backgrounds in Europe are hit hardest by the climate crisis.

Monday's report, which addresses the links between climate justice and racism, shows through several case studies how racialised communities are being denied employment, income, a healthy and safe living environment, as well as access to decision-making. It encourages policymakers to address structural inequalities rooted in “neocolonial capitalism” in policies aimed at addressing the climate crisis - such as the European Green Deal - to “decolonise climate action.”

While rich countries are responsible for more than 70 percent of historical emissions, poor countries in the Global South have been hit hardest by global climate crisis and have less resources to adapt and fend off its worst consequences.

But according to ENAR, environmental and climate justice needs to be addressed within Europe as well.

“It is well documented that the global pandemic exacerbated existing racial inequalities. It is time to acknowledge that racialised communities are also on the front line of the climate crisis here in Europe, in our neighborhoods," Karen Taylor, Chair of the ENAR Board, said.

Chlordecone in Guadeloupe and Martinique

Two overseas French territories, Guadeloupe and Martinique, are islands in the Antilles colonised by France in the 17th century.

The case study highlights the use of a poisonous pesticide, Chlordecone, in banana plantations in these two territories, authorized between 1973 and 1993 by former president Jacques Chirac, then minister of agriculture. 

Chlordecone can stay in organisms and soil decades after its use, and studies show it has been detected in more than 90 percent of the populations in the two islands. There is evidence it contributes to premature births, while the incidence of prostate cancer in Guadeloupe and Martinique is much higher than the global average.

Migrant-majority communities in France living near incinerators

Another case study highlighted concerns about migrant communities in metropolitan France, and how they are more likely to live near hazardous sites such as waste management facilities and incinerators. These are more likely to be located in lower-income towns and suburbs with higher migrant populations.

A 2014 study showed that for every 1 percent increase in foreign-born inhabitants, a French town’s chance of having an incinerator nearby increased by nearly 30 percent. The suburbs of Paris suffer from higher levels of air pollution due to highways and major intersections being located there. 

A warming climate can trap pollutants into the lower atmosphere and worsen the impact of air pollution on respiratory health.

Roma communities at Pata Rat landfill, Romania

The Roma community living near the illegal Pata Rata landfill on the edges of Romania’s second-largest city, Cluj-Napoca, is just one example of Roma communities living near hazardous waste sites, including Miercurea Ciuc in Romania and Podgorica in Montenegro.

The community at Pata Rata was evicted several times from other sites from the 1970s onwards. Waste from all over Europe ends up at landfills such as these. After China closed to waste imports three years ago, Romania has increasingly filled that gap despite its poor waste management record.

Climate refugees in Europe

The UN’s refugee agency is expecting climate-related displacement to increase in the coming years.  While most of the displacement is internal, it is likely that Europe will increasingly see an influx of climate refugees, while its border policies are increasingly aimed at securitisation and externalisation. Europe’s border security market is expected to experience an annual growth of 15 percent.

People displaced by the climate crisis are not officially recognised as refugees under international law. While many countries also grant other forms of protection, such as on humanitarian grounds, climate refugees remain more exposed to the risk of becoming undocumented or exploited labourers.

Source: TRT World