Climate Human Mobility

If you think for a moment, the climate is responsible for all the lives on our planet. I remember when I was a child and I learned how ecosystems are related to people, and how delicate they are.

A small change in the normal cycle of nature can destroy an ecosystem, and that affects people. For example, if the temperature of the water increases, fishers go to colder waters, if there is a village of fishermen that depends on fishing they will be forced to move, as well, to other places. Even if that looks quite normal, people move all the time, but what is not normal is that entire communities are being forced to move. If you have thousands of people moving to another place it will cause several problems, for the same people that move and the community that receives those people (think about work, food, beds, hospitals and so on).

It would generate also political problems, given that not all countries are willing to welcome migrants. This is the problem of climate migration and displacement. A migrant is a person who changes country permanently or temporally; displacement people are the ones who move inside their own countries; a refugee is a person who flees from a situation that can put their life at risk, like a war. (definition of migrant and refugee from UNHCR //; Definition of displacement people UNHCR // )

The main problem when we speak about climate migrant/refugee/displacement is that they don’t have a legal framework that protects them. Inside the Geneva Convention on Refugees (1951), there is not a definition of “climate refugee”, category that does not legally exist. Nevertheless, according to Marine Franck (UNHCR), “one person every second for climate-related issues is forced to move; for example, people are forced to move because of natural disasters, more and more frequently because of Climate Change”.

They are forced to move because their living resources are no longer available because of the environmental change. They are being forced to move because their lives are on an island and this one is slowly sinking. They are forced to leave, and they don’t have any right or protection. That is the problem. What Marine suggests is that we need to fulfill the legal gap of climate displacement/migrants/refugee people. Minimizing displacement before it happens, preparing agreements between countries that could accept those people before the “disaster”.

The Paris Agreement establishes a taskforce for displacement in order to find solutions in this topic. But as Dina Ionesco (IOM) points out, “in this ’ACTION COP’ in migration we must to move from policies discussions to actual action in climate migration and the implementation of Paris agreement”. She suggests her point of view about what this action should aim. “Successful action means that migrants are empowered, they are not only vulnerable people, and they can stand for their own if they are given the tools.” She calls for an Innovated Partnership Action.

Another representative of UNHCR stated that “because of economics, poverty, hunger, climate change, and natural disasters people move and will move. These movements have human rights implications, that are difficult to understand” because at the end of the day all people are entitled to the right to life and dignity, even the migrants.

So, what came out as a solution is ’to do the right thing’, that is to create a system of climate justice. Nina Birkeland (NRC) added that we need to “link global policy and community experience. We need to make adjustments which precedent the mass displacement, we need to focus on prevention and resilience action”.

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