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Australia spends 13 times more on border security than it does on climate finance, a new report from the Transnational Institute says, arguing that high-polluting countries are prioritising arming their borders against climate-displaced people rather than tackling climate impacts.

Climate change, extreme weather and natural disasters are already some of the largest drivers of displacement in the world. The UNHCR estimates more than 20m people are displaced by sudden onset weather-related hazards every year, and thousands more from slow-onset hazards linked to climate change impacts.

While most of that movement remains within national borders, a White House report last week forecast “tens of millions” would be displaced “within and across international borders” in coming decades.

TNI’s report, The Global Climate Wall, found the world’s largest seven emitters of greenhouse gases are spending on average 2.3 times as much on strengthening their borders than they are on climate finance.

Canada spends 15 times as much on border security than on climate finance: Australia 13.5 times. Australia spent $2.7bn in the years 2013 to 2018 on border enforcement, compared with $200m on climate finance.

The seven countries analysed – the US, UK, Germany, Japan, Kingdom, Canada, France and Australia – have emitted 48% of the world’s greenhouse gases since 1850. Collectively, they spent $33.1bn between 2013 and 2018 on border enforcement, dwarfing their climate finance commitments of $14.4bn.

“The world’s wealthiest countries have chosen how they approach global climate action – by militarising their borders. These countries have built a ‘Climate Wall’ to keep out the consequences of climate change,” the report said.

“This ‘global climate wall’ aims to seal off powerful countries from migrants, rather than addressing the causes of displacement.”

The report argues the number of people displaced by climate-related disasters was rising, and would rise dramatically, and most acutely in countries already vulnerable to displacement.

“The ‘global climate wall’ will accelerate deaths and injuries at borders while failing to address climate change. Arming borders is an unworkable solution to climate-linked migration, and draws investment away from climate action whilst increasing human suffering.”

Kumi Naidoo, global ambassador for Africans Rising for Justice, Peace & Dignity, said: “Tackling climate change means fostering global cooperation across borders, not building walls. The push for more, bigger, and more expensive border infrastructure consumes both policy bandwidth and money that could be going toward real climate action – including addressing the causes of displacement”.

A White House report released last week argued “tens of millions of people … are likely to be displaced over the next two to three decades due in large measure to climate change impacts”.

“Although most people displaced or migrating as a result of climate impacts are staying within their countries of origin, the accelerating trend of global displacement related to climate impacts is increasing cross-border movements, too, particularly where climate change interacts with conflict and violence.”

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