The Environmental Justice Foundation has launched a campaign to highlight the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities, forcing people to leave their homes and become refugees.
The Foundation is calling for international leaders, and in particular the European Union, to develop new legal definitions for climate refugees and a legally binding agreement to ensure their greater protection and rights.
The report quotes figures from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre that show that in 2016 extreme weather-related disasters displaced around 23.5 million people. Since 2008, an average of 21.7 million people were displaced each year by extreme weather. This does not include the people forced to fee their homes as a consequence of slow-onset environmental degradation, such as droughts.
The report links impacts of changing weather patterns on food security with the Syrian war as a result of which 6.6 million people have been internally displaced, nearly five million people are residing in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon as well as an estimated 1.2 million seeking refuge in Europe.
“Whilst the war was not solely a result of climate change, the intertwining effects of drought, rural to urban migration, and the increasing unrest due to a lack of government measures to avoid water scarcity, unemployment and growing inequality, corruption and political oppression are clear.”
The Foundation calls for “an international agreement that will clarify the rights and ensure the protection of climate refugees, with the immediate appointment of a United Nations Special Rapporteur to convene, initiate and guide preparatory discussions towards this end.
“Most important of all, is the need to end our ‘carbon addiction’ and meet our shared international commitment under the Paris Agreement, to cut greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that temperature rise is kept below 1.5°C on pre-industrial levels.”
The report, Beyond Borders: Our changing climate - its role in conflict and displacement, is available here.