Skip to main content

It’s time for global action for climate refugees – you can help

City of Sanctuary UK supports the Environmental Justice Foundation campaign for global action on climate refugees.

Since 2008, weather-related hazards have displaced an average of 41 people every minute, and this humanitarian crisis is only going to deepen as the climate breaks down further.

Thailand – Copyright EJF

What makes this even worse is the cruel injustice that those losing their family homes, culture and heritage overwhelmingly come from countries which did the least to cause this crisis. Around 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters occur in developing countries – even though the world’s 50 least developed countries contribute less than 1% of global carbon emissions.

>> Sign the petition to call on governments to #RecogniseRefugees

Migration, often forced and a last resort, is a necessary form of adaptation, and therefore supporting climate refugees is a central question of both climate justice and the most basic human rights. However, despite the urgency of the situation, specific legal protections for climate refugees simply do not exist.

There is not even a clear, agreed legal definition of what actually makes someone a climate refugee.

The world cannot stand by and let people forced from their homes by the climate crisis fall through the gaps, but that is exactly what is happening.

Bangladesh – Copyright EJF

It is of vital importance that all countries implement the Paris Agreement and keep global heating to 1.5°C, to prevent as many people as possible from needing to flee from storms, rising sea levels, floods and drought. However, we also recognise that those who do need to move need solid legal protections.

The first step is for UN member states to develop a clear legal definition for those forced from their homes by the climate crisis. This will help

  • to ensure a rights-based approach,
  • give clarity to the legal status of climate refugees
  • and give the relevant UN bodies the mandate to protect them.

UN member states must also develop an international agreement that will clarify the rights and ensure the protection of climate refugees. This does not mean reopening the Geneva Convention, but instead creating a new framework specifically for climate refugees to have the same rights as those forced from their homes for other reasons.

At present, climate refugees suffer a devastating double blow of being displaced by extreme weather they did almost nothing to cause, and then lacking legal protections when this happens. It’s time for the world to take swift, decisive action to ensure their fundamental rights, and move towards a future where everyone has a safe place to live with dignity.

We are calling on City of Sanctuary networks to Sign the petition to call on governments to #RecogniseRefugees

See also our workshop at the September 2021 National Conference.

Climate displacement with Ben Margolis,  (Campaign strategist for Bridging Ventures and Co-Director for COP26 Coalition and his colleagues Tess Humble and Cornell Hanxomphoe, Daisy Brookhill (Environmental Justice Foundation, and Hayley Richards, CoS UK.  See the video of the workshop and the petition calling on world leaders to provide climate refugees with international legal status, or protection and protect the most basic human rights.  See also the video Surviving the storms: climate displacement in Bangladesh which was shown in the workshop.