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Climate change displacement: ‘A Crucial Challenge’

The increasing impact of climate-induced catastrophes is having devastating effects on a global scale. From intense heatwaves to heavy rainfall and more frequent typhoons, the consequences of climate change are being felt worldwide. The recent publication of a report by the United Nations (UN) on climate change the limited progress made by countries in combating global warming under the Paris Agreement. With patterns becoming increasingly volatile, climate-induced migration is emerging as a significant issue.

Climate-induced migration refers to the movement of people caused by the effects of climate-related disasters, including droughts leading to food and farming crises. Ezekiel Simperingham, the global lead on migration and displacement for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), emphasizes that climate-related migration and displacement are becoming defining challenges. Climate change acts as a “ multiplier,” exacerbating existing risks, such as food and water insecurity, and contributing to and displacement.

While many climate-displaced individuals are also fleeing conflict, climate organizations are cautious about labeling them as “climate .” The term “climate refugee” does not exist in international refugee law, and such migration does not qualify for protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention. The situation faced by those displaced due to climate change is often more complex, involving various contributing factors. Sanjula Weerasinghe, coordinator of migration and displacement at the IFRC, emphasizes that decisions to move are based on multiple factors, including climate, governance, livelihoods, and preexisting conditions.

In terms of where people are moving, 8.7 million people in 88 countries and territories were living in internal displacement due to disasters in 2022, according to the Migration Data Portal. The countries with the highest levels of internally displaced people (IDPs) include Pakistan, the Philippines, China, India, and Nigeria, all due to weather-related issues like floods and storms. It is important to note that narratives of a “flood of refugees” coming to the Global North are not an accurate portrayal of climate migration.

Addressing climate-induced migration requires investment in preparedness and efforts to prevent further displacement. The UN has established a Refugee Fund, which aims to invest in reforestation and clean cooking programs in climate-vulnerable areas. Simperingham emphasizes the need to understand and regions at the highest risk of climate impact, particularly where these intersect with other vulnerabilities, to address humanitarian needs proactively.

However, there is a growing call for more global discussion and solutions to address climate migration. It is crucial to consider options for people to move within their countries while sustaining their resilience and well-being. We must focus on preventing similar situations from occurring in the and supporting those affected by climate-related displacement. As climate-induced migration continues to rise, proactive measures and international cooperation are essential to address this humanitarian .

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