Achieving Climate Justice: The link between climate change and structural racism

"I was taught about the impacts of climate from a young age. But I don’t think I understood that it disproportionately impacted people of colour until working with immigrant rights communities"

Thanu Yakupityage

"‘The climate crisis reflects and reinforces racial injustice"

Jeremy Williams, Climate Change is Racist.

As the effects of climate change intensify, it’s vital to ensure an intersectional approach to global climate action. Jeremy Williams and Thanu Yakupitiyage both argue that there is an indisputable link between climate change and racial inequalities, that must be overcome to achieve climate justice. Thanu and Jeremy joined Nesta's Research Fellow at the University of Oslo, Chantale Tippett to discuss this.

In his book, Climate Change is Racist, Jeremy Williams argues that climate change is disproportionately caused by mostly majority-white countries, and the damages unleashed overwhelmingly on people of colour.

For activist Thanu Yakupitiyage, climate change is also inextricably tied up with the migrant crisis, with climate change disasters provoking widespread migration.

How can we ensure climate action empowers and provides for the communities most affected by climate change? How can the fight for racial and climate justice work hand in hand?

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Jeremy Williams

Jeremy is a writer and activist for environmental and social justice. He is the author of Climate Change is Racist: Race, Privilege and the Struggle for Climate Justice (Icon Books, 2021), and writes The Earthbound Report, twice recognised as Britain's leading green blog. He grew up in Madagascar and Kenya, and now lives in Luton, UK

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Thanu Yakupitiyage

Thanu Yakupitiyage is the U.S. Communications & Digital Director at, an organization tackling the climate crisis by ending the age of fossil fuels and building a just world powered by community-led renewable energy for all. She's also a long-time immigrant rights activist, media professional, cultural organizer, and multidisciplinary artist/deejay based in New York City. She previously worked for the New York Immigration Coalition for close to seven years where she headed the organization's communications and media relations strategy. Through her work at NYIC, she became an immigration policy expert, using her skills in media and communications to shift narratives on immigration and immigrants themselves. She was a lead organizer in recent efforts to push back against Trump's executive orders in his first week in office that mandated a Muslim Ban and increased enforcement and raids against immigrant communities. In 2017, she decided to move on to and bring a migration perspective to the critical work of climate justice. At, she has led communications for the largest climate mobilizations and helped popularize and shift the narrative on climate as a critical social and racial justice issue. In 2018-2019, Thanu held New York University's Asian Pacific American Institute Artist-in-Residence, which she used to curate critical conversations on migration, climate, and the arts. She also was selected to be part of The Shed's Open Call 2019, where she produced an audiovisual piece on migrant stories. She has an MA in communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a BA in critical media studies and international development from Hampshire College.

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Chantale Tippett

Nesta Research Fellow at the University of Oslo