Research shows that without ambitious climate action and disaster risk reduction, climate-related disasters could double the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance to over 200 million each year by 2050.
This year’s observance of World Environment Day will be on the theme of ‘ecosystem restoration’ and focus on resetting our relationship with nature. It will also mark the formal launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030. Pakistan will jointly host World Environment Day with the UN Environment Programme.
UNHCR recently released data visualisation ‘Displaced on the frontlines of climate change’ that shows how the climate emergency is converging with other threats to drive new displacement and increase the vulnerability of those already forced to flee.
The data visualisation explores how disasters linked to climate change may worsen poverty, food insecurity and access to natural resources in ways that can stoke instability and violence.
The impacts of our changing climate are being felt worldwide, but countries already struggling with conflict, poverty and high levels of displacement are dealing with some of the most severe effects.
“We’re seeing climate change raising tensions around the world as people fight for resources,” explained UNHCR’s Special Advisor on Climate Action, Andrew Harper.
“As a protection agency, we can no longer afford to be reactive. We can’t wait for people to cross borders. We understand that conflict is going to increase over time, and it’s important for us to be better prepared.”
From Afghanistan to Central America, droughts, flooding, and other extreme weather events are hitting those least equipped to recover and adapt.
The visualisation provides geographic examples, such as Afghanistan, where recurring droughts and floods, combined with decades of conflict and displacement, have left millions of people vulnerable to hunger this year.
Some of the worst violence and displacement in Burkina Faso has occurred in the poorest, most drought-affected areas, where armed groups have exploited tensions over access to dwindling water sources and shrinking arable land.
Mozambique is experiencing a similar confluence of conflict and multiple disasters with one cyclone after another battering the country’s central region, while increasing violence and turmoil to the north displaces hundreds of thousands of people.
In Bangladesh, more than 870,000 Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar are now exposed to increasingly frequent and intense cyclones and flooding. This reveals that many countries most exposed to the impacts of climate change already host large numbers of refugees and internally displaced people.
“COVID has really woken us up and shown that some emergencies will affect us all globally, and we must work together to solve them,” UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, told participants in an online session of the annual High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges.
Triggs warned that unlike the current pandemic, which has seen governments swiftly adopt measures to control its spread and mitigate the social and economic impacts, the climate crisis is not yet being met with the same sense of urgency.
“Both climate change and the COVID pandemic transcend borders and threaten millions of lives. Sadly, refugees and displaced people are among the most vulnerable in the world to the disease, and to the effects of climate change.”
Last year alone, weather-related events triggered some 24.9 million displacements in 140 countries. Research shows that without ambitious climate action and disaster risk reduction, climate-related disasters could double the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance to over 200 million each year by 2050.
UNHCR is working to reduce the risks that extreme weather events pose to refugees and internally displaced people. The agency is calling on States to urgently and collectively take action to combat climate change and mitigate its impacts on the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people around the world.
It is also urging States to step up their protection and assistance to people displaced by disasters and the effects of climate change.
The majority of funds raised by Australia for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.