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Alana Ryan: The clean revolution as an opportunity to mitigate environmentally induced migration

16 July 2013
Alana Ryan: The clean revolution as an opportunity to mitigate environmentally induced migration

The Climate Group's Alana Ryan explores how governments, businesses and consumers can help mitigate environmentally induced migration by investing in the global clean revolution and implementing a sustainable development model

Alana writes:

A clean revolution -- the catalyst for a low carbon economy -- is a transition which offers nations, and their people, real opportunity.

Economically, it makes sense. In Australia for example, wind energy is now significantly cheaper than coal and natural gas, as Bloomberg New Energy Finance recently reported.

And businesses, as well as businesses’ customers, will benefit from the clean revolution too. Companies who adapt a ‘net good’ approach to business can create more jobs and boost growth, ensuring that the quality of life for many is dramatically improved. For example, in 2012, BT met its target of cutting carbon emission by 80% and decreased energy consumption by 3.3%, guaranteeing annual savings of £33 million.  

Clean energy is clearly no longer on the fringes. It is a compelling alternative which more and more governments and businesses are moving towards.

However, one crucial and sometimes overlooked fact is that the clean revolution will also mitigate further environmental disasters that can wreak havoc upon billions of people’s lives.


By 2070, if we continue at our current rate, not only will property damages be in the region of US$35 trillion, but according to a recent OECD paper, 120 million people will be vulnerable to the impacts of runaway climate change.

Water, an already scarce natural resource, is likely to become even more elusive, just as food security becomes a major concern. Numerous countries in the developing world are experiencing water shortages and crop failure on account of global rise in temperatures, and increased competition for these limited resources may well lead to greater tension and conflict, as well as forced migration.

At present, for those victims of natural disasters who do attempt to seek asylum elsewhere, under current international law – the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees – there is no protection guaranteed.

It is a misnomer to suggest that these occurrences are ‘natural’ disasters; climate change is driven by people’s actions and hence can be tackled through more responsible behavior at individual, corporate and state level.

We have the low carbon technology to curtail environmental disasters available to us, right now.

Sustainable and equitable development which prioritizes investment in renewable sources of power can counter the effects of climate change, while also increasing developing countries’ GDP.  Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director has argued that Nigeria could save US$1.4 billion yearly if it switched fully to energy efficient lighting.

Simple steps like this will translate into tangible improvements in the quality of life for citizens; public health will be better as dangerous kerosene fumes become a relic of a different age, businesses’ productivity will increase as their trading hours are no longer constrained to daylight hours and, on a basic level, citizens can feel safer after the sun sets.


Progress has already been made; there is reason to be optimistic about a swift transition to the clean revolution. 

According to REN21, since 2006, US$1.3 trillion has been invested into the renewable energy sector and as of May 2013, all 21 MENA countries have renewable energy goals in place, with 19 explicitly listing clean technology as a priority.

Similarly, the UN Secretary General High Level Panel has advocated that the follow up to the Millennium Development Goals prioritizes sustainable development and a reduction in fossil fuel subsidies.

As global citizens, it is vitally important that we follow elite leadership and adapt our own routines to cut carbon emissions. The clean revolution is expansive in its agenda and has the potential to prevent further warming, but it is only realizable if all partake in it.

The fragility of our planet and the vulnerability of some of its people cannot be stressed enough; a radical change of agenda is imperative.

The clean revolution is already in motion. We have the innovative technology and the requisite knowledge -- we just need the will to change.

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