With climate crisis on an increase, the world lacks adequate legal and policy frameworks for governing climate-induced displacement (refugees), according to a new study by a UK based Environment Trust.
The report “ No Shelter From the Storm” say that the protection gap that describes the lack of satisfactory measures addressing the various adaptation, disaster risk reduction, humanitarian assistance and legal protection needs of climate refugees has intensified with increased climate crisis. As the climate crisis intensifies, the gap presents a growing humanitarian crisis and risk the erosion of human rights achievements and the failure of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda across the world, the report added.
The Environmental Justice Foundation Charitable Trust is a UK registered charity.
Climate and environmental laws are good for providing protection to climate refugees, as they explicitly consider environmental drivers. However, the report states that these laws lack clarity, transparency, and consistency for climate refugees. It notes that the implementation of Warsaw International Mechanism for loss and damage to help with climate displacement was far from clear. The UN Task Force on Displacement Associated with Climate Change has the potential to drive forward protections for climate refugees, but it has yet to openly call on the international community to adopt a legal instrument to protect climate refugees.
Since 2008, weather related hazards have displaced over 21 million people each year on average, equivalent to 41 people every minute, the report mentioned. This figure does not include those forced to leave home due to slow onset climate impacts, such as desertification and sea level rise. Moreover, it is a fact that most of the world’s climate refugees come from vulnerable communities in lower-income countries, where environmental degradation and climate change intersects with and exacerbates other stressors such as poverty, oppression, and conflict.
The Environmental Justice Foundation also noted that the Nansen Initiative, which suggests protections for people crossing borders because they have lost their homes to disasters – are still non-binding, and the tepid response from national governments shows that a stronger, legally binding framework is urgently needed. The Foundation opined that the people who have lost their homes and livelihoods would not get the protection they deserve without a carefully crafted international agreement.
- The international community should urgently work together to protect climate refugees by mitigating global heating through rapid decarbonisation action and developing protections for those already affected by climate change.
- All climate actions and agreements, including COP 26, must address the issue of climate adaptation and recognise climate-induced displacement as a form of adaptation in need of international recognition, support and action.
- Development of a new legal framework for the protection of climate refugees. Such a framework must take place entirely outside of the scope of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, in order to guard the integrity of existing refugee protection mechanisms.
- Full implementation of the Paris Agreement to keep global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
- Delivery of and scaling up of international climate finance commitments, to fund mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, disaster risk reduction and resilience programmes which deliver dignified and durable solutions for those impacted first and worst by the climate crisis.
- Investment in new data collection and monitoring systems to better understand, predict and support the needs of climate refugees.
- Commitment to inclusive deliberations and negotiations for mitigation and adaptation to the climate crisis