Climate Refugee Agreement

Critics of the UN Refugee Convention tend to fall into two camps. In one camp, there are those who think the treaty is too old to meet the challenges of forced displacement in the twenty-first century, such as climate change and disasters. On the other side, there are those who think that the treaty is too generous and, in a way, responsible for the large number of refugees we see today around the world. “We may have a climate crisis, but we don`t need to have a forced displacement crisis,” McAdam said. Despite a slow start and considerable lethargy, climate negotiators seem to have finally understood the reality of climate eviction. The creation of a task force on this subject was an important step forward. The recognition of migrants as a category to be protected and the inclusion in the Paris Agreement of a provision on human rights and climate justice were important milestones. The Task Force was established in March 2017 and a stakeholder meeting was held in May 2018 to make recommendations on integrated approaches to climate change. Several organizations, including mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice and Oxfam, have submitted contributions. According to a press release issued after the meeting, the task force carried out nine mapping exercises covering policies, practices and data related to human mobility in the context of climate change. The Task Force identified several gaps in international law, operational implementation, funding, data collection and analysis. The Task Force intends to present its report at COP24 in Poland. “In this case, it will be difficult to say that you should be able to bring someone back to their place of origin if they are so affected by climate change that they are not able to live with dignity,” Ober said.

Since climate change is not the only trigger that moves people, it is difficult to find exact figures of those who will be forced to move due to climate change. Forecasts range from 20 million to 200 million environmental refugees by 2050, but these figures are controversial. A widespread myth around violent expulsion is that these unfortunate people will flock to countries in the global North in search of a better life. In fact, some politicians in the global north are drawing this picture to scare their people that refugees will take their resources. The truth cannot be further from it. Indeed, the countries hosting the largest numbers of refugees and displaced people are in the global south (Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon were the three largest refugees in 2015) – countries that can hardly support their own populations. As countries around the world decide how to deal with the influx of climate migrants, the most vulnerable nations, many of them in the Caribbean, are already taking proactive steps to combat the effects of climate change. In 2018, the World Bank estimated that three regions (Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia) would generate an additional 143 million climate migrants by 2050.3 In 2017, 68.5 million people were forcibly displaced, more than at any time in human history. Although it is difficult to estimate, about a third of them (22.5 million to 24 million people) have been forced to move due to “sudden” weather events – floods, forest fires as a result of droughts and aggravated storms.

While the remaining two-thirds of displacement is the result of other humanitarian crises, it is clear that climate change is contributing to so-called desertification, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, air pollution, shifting rainfall patterns, and biodiversity loss.6 This deterioration will exacerbate many humanitarian crises and increase the movement of people. . . .

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