Environmental activists participating in a protest on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow | Photo: Robert Perry / EPA
Environmental activists participating in a protest on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow | Photo: Robert Perry / EPA

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is appealing to world leaders attending COP26 in Glasgow to act now to mitigate the impact of the climate crisis on those forced to flee.

UNHCR said it is now clear that there is a correlation between climate crises and forced migration, and in a statement it made at COP26, it called on world leaders to take action and intensify aid to people forced to flee and to the communities that receive them, to prevent and mitigate losses and damage in the most vulnerable regions.

The UN agency launched its appeal to ensure improved assistance to the communities and countries that, despite being among the hardest hit by the climate crisis, receive less support.

"The focus needs to be channeled towards community-based adaptation projects to help the millions grappling with the catastrophic effects of climate change, many of whom have been displaced, often multiple times," said UNHCR in a statement released November 7.

Climate crises worldwide

"Most of the people we support are from countries on the front lines of the climate emergency or they are being hosted in states equally impacted," said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

"They face climate-related disasters like floods, droughts and desertification. This destroys livelihoods, stokes conflict, and has forced people to move. We urgently need new thinking, innovation, funding from the wealthiest, and political will just to contain the situation, let alone improve things," Grandi said.

In Glasgow, UNHCR's Special Advisor on Climate Action, Andrew Harper, is highlighting the impact of climate change on the displaced. Ninety percent of refugees under UNHCR's mandate and 70% of the internally displaced are from vulnerable countries least ready to adapt.

Climate refugees

Millions more are forced from their homes every year in disasters. In Afghanistan, rising temperatures and droughts have exacerbated the effects of 40 years of war, worsening food shortages in a country with over 3.5 million people internally displaced.

In Mozambique, insurgency has forced 730,000 to flee as the country reels from cyclones. In the Sahel, temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster than the rest of the world, and climate-related impacts are increasing competition for resources.

'We can't wait for more unfulfilled commitments'

"We can't wait for more COPs and more unfulfilled commitments," Harper said. "The displaced and their hosts need help now, to build resilience to resist the looming increase in extreme weather events," he stated.

"Forced displacement is among the most devastating human consequences of climate change and shows the deep inequalities in our world," Grandi added. "Partnering with those already suffering the effects of climate change, especially those uprooted from home, is critical to successful solutions. But they need international support, and they need it now."


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