On 27th September, the government gave the green light to develop the Rosebank oilfield.
The UK’s largest undeveloped oilfield in the North Sea, Rosebank could produce 200 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, with production expected to start in 2026.
Rishi Sunak justified the decision on the basis that oil and gas will purportedly play a part in our future energy mix. “Even when we’ve reached net-zero in 2050, a quarter of our energy needs will come from oil and gas,” he insisted.
This flies in the face of evidence, expertise and common sense. The Climate Change Committee has said that the UK will “continue to need some oil and gas”, but added “this does not in itself justify the development of new North Sea fields.” Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency has stated in unambiguous terms that “no new oil and gas projects are needed” to meet the target of net zero in 2050.
Climate campaigners condemned the decision, with Hannah Martin from Green New Deal Rising branding it “an act of climate vandalism by Rishi Sunak and his government”, while Caroline Lucas dubbed the decision a “moral obscenity”.
The same week that Rosebank was announced, Suella Braverman gave two speeches. In the first, given on 26th September in Washington, the home secretary attacked the Refugee Convention – the international laws that guarantee the right to claim asylum. Braverman argued that the asylum system is unsustainable if “simply being gay, or a woman, and fearful of discrimination…is sufficient to qualify for protection” and said that current governments are “bound by outdated legal models”.
During the second speech, at the Conservative Party conference on 3rd October in Manchester, Braverman began by mentioning how “the world is being transformed by powerful forces” and how this would cause “hurricane” of migration of people coming to the UK. She warned the audience about these migrants “taking their jobs” even though this is a disproven misconception. Rather than invest in renewable energy or public services, Braverman’s response to the climate crisis appears to be enforcing the Illegal Migration Act. Safe and legal routes to claim asylum in the UK do not exist, which means that those who do claim asylum “will be detained and removed”.
Rosebank and Braverman’s racist rhetoric may seem unrelated, but only by looking at the Tories’ attacks on the right to claim asylum alongside their approval of the oilfield can we see their strategy for the climate crisis. People already have to leave their homes because of war, poverty and persecution. As the climate crisis intensifies there will be more extreme weather events which make areas uninhabitable and destroy people’s livelihood, as well as slower and longer term impacts on water and food security which can lead to more war and poverty, and in turn push more people to leave their homes.
Opening Rosebank shows us that the Tories do not care about fighting the climate crisis. Indeed, they are choosing to actively make it worse. This will mean many more people will choose to leave their homes or be forced to as areas become uninhabitable.
It is important not to play into the alarmist rhetoric about migration being a threat. There were over 100 million people displaced because of conflict and persecution globally in 2022, and if the climate crisis continues there could be over 1 billion environmental refugees by 2050. People are facing a life or death choice, where migration is the only option to keep them and their families safe. This level of human suffering demands a humane response. Not just in the future, but today.
Braverman’s comments, however, show that the Tories’ solution to climate migration is border enforcement: more immigration detention centres, more border police, more deportations and even the externalisation of the UK’s borders.
By analysing attacks on the planet and on the right to move together, we’re able to see how the climate crisis and borders reinforce each other. The ability of the elites to continue destroying the planet depends partly on their ability to enforce borders and stop people moving, in the same way that the destruction of the planet depends on the police and prisons to arrest and lock up climate activists.
In response, we need to see borders as infrastructure for the climate crisis. Every prison for people whose only crime is not having the right piece of paper; every word of racist fearmongering about people who move in search of safety; every surveillance camera and police officer at the border; resisting all of this is part of ending the climate crisis.
We in the Global North must stand in solidarity with people in the Global South on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Already in the UK and across Europe, there are people crossing borders, people standing in solidarity with them and people resisting the militarisation of borders. We in the UK climate movement need to recognise that ending the climate crisis and resisting borders are part of the same fight.
This begins with educating ourselves about borders, migration and the climate. No Borders in Climate Justice runs workshops about the connections between the climate crisis, migration and borders. We see how colonialism and capitalism have led to the climate crisis, with the richest nations being the most responsible and creating a global apartheid based on the random accident of where you were born.
We also believe that people escaping war, poverty or the climate crisis should be treated with respect, dignity and kindness. This means we fight for the freedom to stay, by resisting capitalism, colonialism and the climate crisis which force people to move, and the freedom to move, by resisting borders so that when people need or want to leave their homes they are able to.
Beyond that, there are so many other possibilities to take action: joining with demonstrations outside detention centres organised by LGSM; fundraising for legal support; working with Care4Calais to support people claiming asylum with events in community gardens; getting involved with SDS to support people inside immigration detention centres; or even taking inspiration from Stop Deportations and blocking a deportation flight because it’s an obscene waste of carbon.
The way things are going, regardless of whether we stay below 1.5 degrees or go above 3 degrees, everyone who manages to escape the violence of the climate crisis is going to find themselves stuck in front of a big wall. That’s why the climate movement needs to make sure not a single drop of oil comes out of Rosebank and that’s why the climate movement needs to resist this racist border regime.
No Borders in Climate Justice is a collective of climate and migrant justice activists who believe in no borders. We believe that people should have the freedom to move and the freedom to stay, so we fight for the abolition of borders and to end the climate crisis. Get involved here.
Image: Flickr/Fibonacci Blue
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