UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has urged global leaders to curb the most devastating humanitarian consequences of the climate crisis and avert a catastrophic future for millions of displaced people.
"COP27 must equip countries and communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis to prepare for extreme weather, to adapt, and minimize the impact of the climate emergency," Grandi said in a statement published on Monday, November 7.
"We cannot leave millions of displaced people and their hosts to face the consequences of a changing climate alone."
The UN climate conference this year, which is ongoing in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt until November 18, is taking place amid climate catastrophes, from unprecedented floods in Pakistan to the worst drought recorded in decades across the Horn of Africa.
Africa amid record floods and extreme drought
The UNHCR said in the statement that inside Somalia nearly one million people have been displaced by drought and the threat of famine. Devastating cyclones in Mozambique have affected tens of thousands of people previously displaced by violence, while South Sudan and Sudan are battling record floods for a fourth consecutive year.
More than 3.4 million displaced people and their hosts are facing the consequences of recent destructive flooding in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and the Central Sahel countries of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, a region already experiencing one of the world's worst displacement crises, UNHCR said.
In Cameroon's far north, intercommunal violence has erupted between herders, fishers and farmers over dwindling water resources as Lake Chad and its tributaries have dried up from drought. Over 100 people were reportedly killed or injured late last year, and tens of thousands fled their homes.
Meanwhile, UNHCR recalled, drought in Central America's "dry corridor" has forced farmers to flee to nearby cities where they are vulnerable to violence from street gangs. And in other parts of the region such as Honduras, climate change is one more factor sparking displacement as hurricanes become ever more powerful and frequent.
Over 70% of refugees from climate-vulnerable countries
According to estimates reported by the UN agency, over 70% of the world's refugees and displaced people come from the most climate-vulnerable countries including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria and Yemen.
They have an enormous stake in discussions about the climate crisis, but they are too often excluded.
Only bold action and a massive boost in financing for climate mitigation and adaptation can alleviate the current and future humanitarian consequences of the climate crisis on displaced populations and host communities, insisted UNHCR.
The agency called for collaborative and inclusive investments as well as solutions for the most vulnerable. It said world leaders must look to transformational, lasting and integrated action that involves local communities, governments and partners already battling climate extremes.
The concerns and solutions for displaced people must be given a place not only in discussions like at COP 27 but also must receive much more support in the climate "hotspot", UNHCR concluded.