EJF’s No Place Like Home campaign is calling for new international agreements to protect climate refugees and the millions of people who have contributed least to a changing climate, but who will feel its effects first and worst.
- On average, 27 million people are displaced by climate- and weather- related disasters each year – roughly equivalent to the population of Ghana and more than Australia’s entire population. In 2012, however, 31.7 million people were displaced by weather- and climate- related disasters. That’s one person every second, and roughly three times the number of refugees fleeing war or persecution.
- In the last six years, 2% of the world's population have been displaced by climate- and weather- related disasters, totalling a staggering 119.4 million people – a number slightly larger than the entire population of Mexico.
- 2013 broke the record for people displaced by storms, with 14.2 million people forced from their homes.
- In the ten countries affected by both conflict- and disaster-induced displacement in 2013, natural hazards displaced five times more people than armed conflict.
- According to a random survey of over 30,000 people in Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam and Indonesia, 68% of people believe that their community is at medium-to-high risk of extreme weather events and 87% believe that changes in weather and the availability of food and water will significantly impact their lives.
In 2014, the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report section on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability featured, for the first time, chapters dedicated to the security implications of climate change. It concluded that climate change will generate new challenges to states and that slow- and rapid- onset environmental changes have significant impacts on forms of migration that compromise human security.
As rainfall becomes increasingly erratic, seasons become less predictable, saltwater intrudes into coastal areas and surface temperatures and sea levels rise, the natural systems which support our global population are being compromised. More intense and in some cases more frequent flooding, tidal surges, cyclones, droughts, wildfires, extreme cold and mudslides constitute grave threats to lives and livelihoods.
The poorest and least-developed countries and small island developing states are already disproportionately affected by displacement as a result of climate-related hazards. The world’s most vulnerable with the least resilience to change will be the first and worst affected by climate change. In many instances, they will have no choice but to leave their homes.
In the last six years, 140 million people - or roughly one person every second - were displaced by a climate or weather-related natural disaster. This figure outstrips the number of refugees fleeing war or persecution. As our global climate changes, more extreme weather events are taking hold - more floods, droughts and sudden-onset events such as cyclones that claim lives and livelihoods. Ninety-nine percent of all deaths from climate- and weather- related disasters occur in Less Developed Countries (LDCs). Yet the world’s 50 least-developed countries together emit less than 1% of total carbon emissions. Those who have contributed least to climate change are those feeling its effects first and worst.
“We are here [Tupera Taltola slum, Khulna] simply because of the flood…There was heavy rainfall. Hens, ducks, doors, furniture - everything got smashed. We were starving. We had no choice but to move… I am not sure how many families left the village, but a lot of them have done so. I may not return to the village. I have no place to live in. The house is not safe. There will be more floods in the future.”
Haowa Begum, Bangladesh
Recent disasters show the potential scale of displacement that could result from climate change - in 2010, floods in Pakistan displaced approximately 1.8 million people and damaged or destroyed up to 1.6 million homes; in 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused US $50bn in damage, and thousands of people remain displaced; in 2013, Typhoon Haiyan displaced more than 4 million people in the Philippines. When such extreme weather events occur, people are forced from their homes and the land and source of livelihood they depend upon, becoming refugees or internally-displaced persons who will need humanitarian assistance and long-term assistance to survive. Increasingly, military experts have recognised the threat that climate change poses to national security and the potential to generate armed conflicts, particularly where there are existing tensions across political divides or between ethnic, religious or cultural groups, and in hotspots such as Central Asia.
“A growing number of people are uprooted by natural disasters or lose their livelihoods to desertification, with climate change now found to be the key factor accelerating all other drivers of forced displacement. These persons are not truly migrants, in the sense that they did not move voluntarily. As forcibly displaced not covered by the refugee protection regime, they find themselves in a legal void.”
António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
EJF believes that human rights should be at the heart of international action on climate change, and that more can be done to safeguard the rights of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities. That's why we are campaigning for a new Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change to be established in the United Nations Human Rights Council.
With the human cost of climate change increasing year-on-year, EJF is striving to put people and human rights at the fore of the international climate debate. We want to generate new concern that the impacts of climate change - including the potential for future violent conflicts - are too costly to ignore. Whilst pressing for legal recognition of climate refugees and with a goal of securing the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Climate and Human Rights, EJF’s campaign is also serving as a reminder of our shared individual and global responsibility to curb carbon emissions and protect our most valuable global asset – our planet.
EJF’s campaign aims to highlight and build international support for climate refugees – those people forced from their homes and land by deteriorating environmental conditions associated with climate change. Many are among our planet's poorest and most vulnerable people. These are the first victims of our failure to prevent climate change, and without international help and binding agreements on assistance, they may have nowhere to go and no means to survive. Our campaign will build public understanding of the issues and the need to view climate change through a ‘human rights lens’, working together to call for international policies to meet the growing need for legal recognition for climate refugees.
Climate refugees are not legally recognised and derive no official support under existing international legislation such as the 1951 Geneva Convention that provides assistance for people fleeing war or persecution. EJF’s campaign is dedicated to arguing their case - putting the call to governments and our political leaders for a new legal agreement to protect climate refugees, guaranteeing them rights and assistance and a fair claim to our shared world.
We are campaigning for a UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change. People displaced by climate-related natural hazards outnumber refugees fleeing persecution and violence by more than three to one. However, unlike the latter, those displaced by environmental factors have no legal status. There is no legislation, agency or institution specifically mandated for the protection and assistance of climate refugees. They live in a legal void. Because of this, many of them face an uncertain future, and they are unrecognised and largely unaided by the international community.
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