12th November 2021

We joined the Environmental Justice Foundation for a Twitter Q&A to discuss the importance of recognising Climate Refugees & how climate change will disproportionately affect women.

1. Why is it important to recognise climate change refugees?

 It's important to recognise climate refugees because they do not have the legal protections they need. Climate disasters overwhelmingly affect people who did little to cause them; the least world leaders can do is establish legal frameworks allowing them to move safely.

2. How does current legislation exclude those displaced by climate change? And what changes can be made to ensure their protection?

Existing frameworks, from refugee law to climate agreements, do not meet the needs of climate refugees, as they are excluded from these frameworks. To protect them, we need a new international agreement, one which does not reopen existing refugee laws like the 1951 Convention.

3. It is estimated more people are displaced due to climate change than conflict. Is this true and if so, how many people are displaced daily?

It is sadly true. Since 2008, weather-related hazards – which are increasing in frequency and severity as a result of the climate crisis – have displaced over 21 million people each year on average. That's equivalent to 41 people every minute.

This illustrates the scale of human suffering which the climate crisis is causing, and makes an urgent case for action now - both mitigation and adaptation policy, and specifically including support for the displaced.

4. Will women disproportionately be affected by the effects of climate change? If so, how? 

Women are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis already. In some cases, this means sexual harassment and abuse after extreme weather. In others, women are not taught vital skills which could save their lives.

In the future, as climate change restricts livelihoods and pushes communities deeper into poverty, women and girls will be first to drop out of school and will be less able to access health services. They are also at risk of human trafficking, and forced and child marriage.

Climate justice only works if it recognises these interconnected issues and actively, continuously includes gender justice.

5. Do you feel women and minority groups are well represented at COP26? And how would you like to see them involved in the future?

No, they are not well represented. This has been one of the most exclusionary COPs ever, with shockingly low access for women and minority groups. There have been two key barriers: access and representation.

Many people have been excluded by an absence of badges or funding, as well as vaccine apartheid, but even for those present there has been little opportunity to actually participate in the negotiations which will define their future.

There has been a particular, unacceptable lack of representation for refugees and displaced communities, while the fossil fuel lobby has sent a bigger delegation to COP26 than any actual country. The draft deal is a love letter to the fossil fuel industry.

In future, those hit first and worst by this crisis must be at the heart of the negotiations, with a meaningful voice at the table.

Our new report covers the urgent need for world leaders to recognise climate refugees at COP26 and beyond.

6. How will the UK Nationality & Borders Bill affect those attempting to seek refuge in the UK because of climate change?

UK legislation is based on the 1951 Refugee Convention, which doesn’t recognise climate refugees. People displaced by climate change would be treated as migrants. Currently, they may be granted humanitarian protection, but this is set to get harder under the new Bill.

The new Bill states ‘genuine refugees from regions of conflict & instability’ will be resettled. As you mentioned, the number of people displaced due to climate change exceeds those displaced by conflict and they can’t seek asylum because they aren’t recognised.

No recognition means no protection.

Finally, under the criteria set by the two-tier system of the new Bill, it is unlikely to find climate refugees to be in need of legitimate protection. This is likely to result in many failed asylum cases and could result in deportation.


Image provided by Environmental Justice Foundation 

Environmental Justice Foundation | Homepage (ejfoundation.org)