Displaced people fleeing Sindh streamed into Balochistan. Photo credits: Abdul Majeed Goraya/IRIN
Stirred by the exodus of hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, where global warming exacerbated a drought that fueled warfare, links between climate change and human displacement have finally been thrust into news reports and political debates.
Those links are being discussed during COP21, the high-profile climate negotiations in Paris. Drafts of a planned U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change agreement have addressed the need to create a “climate change displacement coordination facility”.
Climate change hasn’t been recognized in court as grounds for granting asylum. Anticipating the climate-related displacement of 250 million people by 2050, the creation of a displacement coordination facility is being proposed as part of the implementation of a new Loss and Damage mechanism. That’s a framework that developing countries want to be set up during the climate talks to address unavoidable impacts of climate change, such as droughts, floods, sea level rise, storms and other climate-related hazards.
The details of a Loss and Damage mechanism are still under negotiation. The notion of this facility first appeared in the Nepal submission on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) in October 2014.
The coordinating body’s objective would be to “help coordinate efforts to address climate change induced displacement, migration and planned relocation.” It would financially and logistically support well-managed migration, emergency relief, and compensation.
Internally displaced Somalis at Kooshar Camp in Burao, Somalia. Photo credits: Gavin Roy/UN
As a response to the projected challenges and stressors that climate poses to ongoing human mobility issues, the Climate Change and Human Mobility Advisory Group was created last year.
“Climate related displacement is not a future phenomenon, it is a reality; it is already a global concern,” said Marine Franck, the coordinator of the Advisory Group on Climate Change and Human Mobility, during a press briefing at COP21. “Since 2008 at least 22.5 million people have been displaced every year on average by the impacts of floods, storms and other climate and weather-related events. This is the equivalent of one person being displaced every second. Climate change is a threat multiplier and is likely to increase displacement in the future.”
This group is constituted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Resource, Refugees International and other groups. In a report published last year, the group identifies entry points to insert human mobility in the UNFCCC Convention.
“In the current draft of the negotiation, the issue is address under Loss and Damage but it is also important to address this issue under adaptation,” Franck said.
“This includes increasing resilience of communities so that they can remain safely in their homes,” she said. “For example, storm-resistant buildings, drought-resistant crops and other adaptation measures. Enabling people to migrate in dignity, to seek alternative opportunities when living conditions deteriorate and crisis comes knocking at their door is also an important measure. Thirdly, as a last resort, carefully planning with communities for their relocation to new homes in safer areas.”
Flood victims boarding a rescue boat of Malawi Defence Force in Makalanga, Malawi. Photo credits: Arjan van de Merwe/UNDP
The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) published a Working Document on Adaptation and L&D that proposes several forms to include the L&D mechanism in the Paris Agreement.
Out of the form options presented only one that includes the establishment of a new mechanism in conjunction with a climate change displacement coordination facility. The two others present options to keep operating under the Warsaw Mechanism or just focusing in adaptation without any mention of displacement.
A responsible UN climate agreement would include effective intervention on climate-triggered exile as a strategy to guarantee human rights and deal with the current and projected human exodus, according to Erica Bower, the lead Loss and Damage campaigner for SustainUS.
“The international community including the states present at the UNFCCC should provide compensation and what they’re calling now ‘innovative finance.’”
The COP has agreed before on principles on migration, displacement and relocation before as part of the enhanced adaptation action — and many hope that it will do so again in Paris.
“Preventing and minimizing displacement must be a priority,” said Franck.
This story was sourced through the Voices2Paris UNDP storytelling contest on climate change and developed thanks to John Upton fromClimate Central. It was written by Puertorican Isatis Cintron, a climate activist researching climate social impacts and atmospheric chemistry for a PhD at Rutgers University. The focus of her research is on socio-economical impacts of climate change and mitigation strategies from a chemical perspective. She is part of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby Pathway to Paris initiative and the Climate Tracker movement to raise awareness of climate change policy efforts through journalism.
The CVF is an official partner in the Voices2Paris initiative led by UNDP and the CVF blog will publish stories and other updates from the contest on the CVF site during November/December 2015.