“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark”, Warsan Shire once said. Climate change is one of the key drivers of forced displacement. According to the UN Refugee Agency, of all the people recently displaced, climate-related events are responsible for twice as many as conflict and violence. And it is estimated that by 2050, about 1.2 billion people will become “climate refugees”.
While most of the people affected will be internally displaced and stay within their country, some will be displaced across borders and will not be considered refugees. The fact that they will not have moved voluntarily also rules them out to be considered migrants. Thus, a big issue is that forcibly displaced people are not covered by the refugee protection regimes, so they find themselves in a legal void. And even though we tend to refer to climate refugees, the concept does not exist in international refugee law, which means that “climate refugees” as of now are outside the legal framework of protection.
Climate change disproportionately impacts the most impoverished, marginalized, discriminated and disenfranchised people in our world who played a marginal role in contributing to the problem in the first place, and who will pay a heavier, disproportionate price, such as climate change induced displacement. UN Refugee Agency’s Special Advisor for Climate Action, Andrew Harper, stated during COP27 that “there is no greater example of loss and damage than of having to flee your home to seek refuge”.
Climate change disproportionately impacts the most impoverished, marginalized, discriminated and disenfranchised people in our world
A situation like this obviously challenges the ability of these groups to enjoy their human rights and live lives in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals. Therefore, displacements are not only a climate change issue, but a human rights threat -an equality, justice, and equity issue. Displacements will in fact be a socio-political issue when people displaced due to climate change start crossing borders, potentially causing greater tensions to arise among countries in relation to resource competition, ethnic tension, distrust, etc.
Climate change induced displacements is a serious challenge that we need to prepare for. Going forward countries should focus on:
- Make better efforts to combat climate change
- Invest in risk reduction and adaptation strategies and initiatives based on best available knowledge (e.g. through the use of softwares like 7Analytics that can predict flood risk and reduce extent of displacement through adaptation)
- Think about displacement as the last resort
- Have legal frameworks and the right resources in place that will help us handle human mobility across countries and internally.
This is a challenge we will have to learn how to understand and address, and a burden we will have to share. At 7Analytics, we intend to help reduce the impacts of climate change – one of the most terrible being forced displacement of people.