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Climate refugee


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Climate refugee

  1. 1. The first climaterefugees
  2. 2. There is a new phenomenon in the global arena called ―Climate Refugees‖. A climate refugee is a person displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters. Such disastersresult from incremental and rapid ecological change, resulting in increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones, fires, mass flooding and tornadoes. All this is causing mass global migration and border conflicts.
  3. 3. Climate change threatens to cause the largest refugee crisis in human history. Morethan 200 million people, largely in Africa and Asia, might be forced to leave theirhomes to seek refuge in other places or countries over the course of the century.Many climate refugees may seek refuge in their own countries; others will need tocross borders to find a new home. Some local refugee crises, in particular in thericher countries in the North, may be prevented through adaptation measures. Manypoorer countries, however, are unlikely to be able to initiate sufficient adaptationprogrammes, and climate-induced migration might be the only option for manycommunities in the South. In these situations, climate refugees will need to rely oneffective protection and support from the international community.Different terms have been used to referto these future victims of climatechange, like ―environmentalrefugees‖, ―environmental migrants‖or ―environmentally displaced persons‖.We propose to refer to these people as―climate refugees‖, which we define as:people who have to leave theirhabitats, immediately or in the nearfuture, because of sudden or gradualalterations in their natural environmentrelated to at least one of three impacts ofclimate change: sea-level rise, extremeweather events, and drought and water
  4. 4. WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE DISPLACED ? No international or national legislation explicitly No international or national recognizes or defines ‘environmentally displaced legislation explicitly persons’ and there are no bodies mandated to offer recognizes or defines them protection. The Guiding Principles for Internal ‗environmentally displaced Displacement covers those displaced by natural or persons‘ and there are no human-made disasters. Principles 10-27 detail the bodies mandated to offer protection that should be provided during them protection. The displacement but this only applies to those who have Guiding Principles for not crossed an international border. In order to Internal Displacement address these gaps advocacy groups are seeking covers those displaced by expansion of the term ‘refugee’. However, it needs to natural or human-made be asked whether this is the best way to offer disasters. Principles 10-27 protection to those displaced by environmental detail the protection that degradation. should be provided during displacement but this only applies to those who have not crossed an international border.In order to address these gaps advocacy groups are seeking expansion ofthe term ‗refugee‘. However, it needs to be asked whether this is the bestway to offer protection to those displaced by environmental degradation.
  5. 5. The first key point is that ‗environmental/climate refugee‘ is legally incorrect. A ‗refugee‘ is defined as someone who has a ―well- founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membershi p of a particular social group or political opinion‖ and ―is outside the country of his/her nationality‖. Currently this definition does not include those displaced by environmental factors. Use of the term without any legal expansion of the definition potentially exposes groups and individuals to accusations of naivety and failing toAvoiding the term ‗refugee‘, UNHCR has cautiously moved a sound alegal basisoffor produce towards definitionenvironmentally displaced persons as those: argument― e n v i r o n m e n ta l ly d i s p l a c e d p e o p l e‖ as“who are displaced from or who feel obliged to leave their usual place ofresidence, because their lives, livelihoods and welfare have been placed at serious riskas a result of adverse environmental, ecological or climatic processes and events”To avoid confusion with other categories, such a definition makes no reference tocross-border movement, nor to displacement related to persecution, armed conflict orhuman rights violations. Use of incorrect terminology gives governments grounds todisregard advocacy on behalf of the environmentally displaced.
  6. 6. Promoting the development of moresophisticated typologies of environmentallyinduced migration;Generating, collating and disseminating reliabledata on the numbers of people migratingbecause of environmental impacts;Promoting the identification and mapping ofpotential environmental ‗hotspots‘, ‗tippingpoints‘ and migration trends in relation toenvironmental depletion;Enhancing knowledge of livelihoodresilience, successful adaptation, preparednessand coping strategies used by local populationsto mitigate the impacts of environmental change;Supporting research which will enhanceunderstanding of the relationship betweenenvironmental change and conflict;Commissioning research on potentialgovernance models for areas experiencingdegradation and migration pressures.
  7. 7. COPENHAGEN–Civil society groups Friday launched an InternationalCampaign on Climate Change Refugees‘ Rights on the sidelines ofclimate talks here in the Danish capital.The social movement groups from Asia, Africa and Latin America joined aredemanding the rights of millions of people being displaced by climatechange.At the launching of the campaign, Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executivedirector of VOICE, a Bangladesh-based NGO, said, ―Global civilsociety groups should come forward to build a wider constituency toclaim the justice and rights of the climate-induced refugees.‖Mr Ahmed also demanded that ―a legal safeguard protocol should bein place to ensure the political, social, cultural and economic rights ofthe climate refugees by the international community.‖Goldman Prize Winner and the Executive Director of BangladeshEnvironmental Lawyers Association (BELA) Rizwana Hasan was alsopresent at the launch. She also stressed the need for a legalinstitutional framework for the victims of climate change.
  8. 8. Dr Ahasan Uddin, one of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from Bangladesh demanded a review of the Geneva Convention on Refugees of 1951 in light of climate change. Demanding the recognition of climate debt, Lidy Nacpil from Jublee South-Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) said ―We are not asking assistance or aid butreparations from the industrialized countries for the over extraction and consumption of natural resources.‖Demba Moussa Dembele, the Chair of the LDC Watch from Senegal, and amember of the international committee of the campaign said, ―We don‘t wantclimate change but system change.‖ He said the need of the hour is a newtype of relationship between the North and the South to combat climatechange and ensure rights and justice for climate refugees. The InternationalCampaign on Climate Refugees‘ Rights (ICCR) is a global independentassociation aiming at asserting and realizing the rights and ensuring justiceto climate-induced displaced victims—climate refugees. Civil society groupsfrom Asia, Africa, Latin and Central America consisting ofBangladesh, India, Nepal, SriLanka, Pakistan, Indonesia, Senegal, Uganda, EL Salvador etc, are the
  9. 9. Three areas of international law are relevant: Refugee Law, Climate Change Law and Human Rights Law. Climate change refugees are not currently recognized or protected by any of these international legal regimes. The Refugee Convention definition of Refugee does not include climate refugees. The current definition focuses on persecution based on race, relation, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group. As such climate refugees cannot make a claim for asylum under the Refugee Convention. In the face of climate change-related threats, the human rights perspective adds one important dimension. National and international human rights law provide important safeguards and guidelines for the protection of affected individuals and communities.Giving priority to protecting the most vulnerable and ensuring access to adequate healthservices, information and education, are not only indispensable to strengthening climatechange resilience and reducing risks; such measures are dictated by the legalobligations of States under human rights law.
  10. 10. A specific regime is needed for thepeople uprooted by climate change,according to environmental policyexpert Biermann. Those affected sharea number of characteristics that setthem apart from the political refugeesand economic migrants that the worldhas seen in the past: "climaterefugees" will not be able to return totheir homelands after a temporaryasylum. They are likely to migrate inlarge numbers, collectively andrelatively predictably. And, mostimportantly, they have a strong moraland legal claim against theinternational community, since theworlds richest nations have donemost to cause their problems. That is why Biermann considers that"a new legal instrument specificallytailored for the needs of climaterefugees" needs to be created "as wellas a separate funding mechanism". Aprotocol to the existing United NationsFramework Convention on ClimateChange (UNFCCC) could be such an
  11. 11. Given the recognised protection needs of the environmentally displaced in the Asia-Pacific region, aswell as the current legal and political obstacles of recognising this group as ‗refugees‘, the followingpoints may serve as a starting point for developing more effective advocacy for the protection of‗environmentally displaced persons‘:Develop a clear definition of an ‗environmentally displaced person‘ (EDP) as a basis for advocacy andthe development of policyEncourage governments to recognise the plight of EDPs and support the development of migrationagreements to assist potentially displaced persons. New Zealand‘s agreements with Pacific states couldprovide an exampleEncourage governments to sign up to and adhere to the Guiding Principles for Internal Displacementand to recognise their applicability to the protection needs of those displaced as a result of climatechange within country borders.