Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23
Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23

Climate Refugees – Links, Notes, Bookmarks And Briefs For November 7, 2017

An open thread and occasional notes on the topic of so-called ‘climate refugees’, also known as ‘environmental migrants’ or ‘climate exiles’, people driven from their communities and homes due to the impacts of climate change. Feel free to eavesdrop, join in or start a conversation, or drop a relevant link in the comments. If your comment hasn’t appeared within 24 hours, a reason why is probably here.


Up Front

Published just ahead of the annual UN climate change summit which got underway yesterday in Bonn.

Climate Refugees Move up the Agenda

Republished with permission from The Climate News Network under a Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 4.0) license. Posted in its entirety for informational purposes without comment.

by Alex Kirby

One government is considering easing the path for climate refugees to gain admission, and the United Nations is also reviewing ways to help them.

LONDON, 4 November, 2017 – By definition, climate refugees are people with few choices beyond simple survival as sea levels rise, harvests wither and storms batter whatever refuge they have.

But that could be starting to change: as the UN’s annual climate change conference prepares for two weeks of work (6-17 November) in the German city of Bonn, there are signs of hope for those at risk, who by some estimates could number two billion people by 2100

First, New Zealand’s climate change minister has announced that the government may consider creating an experimental visa for people fleeing from climate change. There are few details of the scheme yet, or of how many of the new visas could be available.

But a UK-based group, the Climate and Migration Coalition, has welcomed the minister’s reference to “humanitarian visas”, which it says avoids one of the toughest problems in climate migration law – how to differentiate a group of people who are fleeing climate change from those escaping crises driven by other forces.

“By creating a broader humanitarian visa it may be possible to create a safe legal route into New Zealand, without getting caught up in trying to define exactly how to decide whether someone is fleeing climate change or not”, the Coalition says.

“Accepting that migration is in fact a form of adaptation to climate change, that mobility can be a coping strategy – that’s what we really hope to see”  

New Zealand can already grant people the right to stay on humanitarian grounds, theoretically including humanitarian crises worsened by climate change, and the Coalition says this new proposal must add something new to what New Zealand can offer.

Many people already migrate between Pacific island nations and New Zealand, often safely and legally. The Coalition believes any new visa to address climate-linked movement must be only one tool for creating safe legal routes, and not be seen as a complete solution.

Another positive sign, activists say, is the existence within the body hosting the Bonn meeting, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCCC), of a specific Task Force on Displacement.

There are several other international agreements involved with climate refugees, including the Global Compact on Refugees, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Platform on Disaster Displacement and the Sendai Framework

Alex Randall, of the Climate and Migration Coalition, says the UNFCCC’s task force “has left the foothills behind and is approaching the summit”, though he thinks it is likely to make its real impact with the recommendations it is due to present at the UNFCCC’s 2018 meeting.

Funding needed   

He told the Climate News Network: “One key way the UN process can help is with finance. Climate-linked adaptation involves steps like switching to more drought-resistant crops and other ways of coping with a warmer world.

“The UN has funding for adaptation, to help people to survive and thrive in the face of climate change. If they’re at risk of becoming climate refugees as well, then we must be realistic. 

“That means accepting that it’s better to plan for the event rather than simply waiting for a crisis to develop. I don’t expect any UN funding for migration-as-adaptation as early as next year, though: it will take longer than that.

“But accepting that migration is in fact a form of adaptation to climate change, that mobility can be a coping strategy – that’s what we really hope to see.” – Climate News Network 

Bonn Summit opens

Columban Missionaries Call for Migration Policies to Include ‘Climate Refugees’ at Opening of UN ConferenceThe Tablet (6 Nov).

The Columban Missionaries have called for migration policies to include “climate refugees” along with urging world leaders to take “meaningful action” to solve the “crisis” of global warming, at the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference, the COP23, which began today (6 November) in Bonn, Germany.

“Fiji [who this year are to chair the COP23] and Pacific Island are faced immediately with the climate refugee crisis,” explained Columban Superior General, Fr. Kevin O’Neill in a statement released yesterday (5 November).

The country and is one of a coalition of low-lying Island Nations who have repeatedly called for an international body to be set up to coordinate population movement caused by climate change. 

Environmental Justice Foundation: ‘We need to talk about climate refugees‘ – Euractiv (6 Nov).

We are already seeing how climate change is causing extreme poverty, food insecurity and how climate change is forcing people to flee their homes. The Environmental Justice Foundation’s latest report, Beyond Borders, outlines the link between a changing climate, migration and conflict and how climate change fed into the Syrian conflict as a ‘threat multiplier’.

Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns will intensify competition for resources, food and water. Rising sea levels and extreme weather events will displace ever greater numbers of people.

Since 2008, weather-related hazards – which are magnifying and multiplying as a result of climate change – displaced more than 21 million people each year, equivalent to 59,600 people every day or 41 people every minute. Millions more were forced to leave their homes due to prolonged droughts and their devastating impacts.

Another response to the Environmental Justice Foundation report. Is the world prepared for climate refugees?Deutsche Welle (3 Nov).

Days before the climate change summit in Bonn, a new report warns that failure to stop climate change will force tens of millions of people from their homes.

The report from the Environmental Justice Foundation, based on interviews with senior US military and security experts, concludes that climate change will create far more refugees than have fled the Syrian civil war.

The EJF is calling on the delegates in Bonn to create a global climate risk insurance framework to protect climate refugees.

“In our rapidly changing world, climate change — and its potential to trigger both violent conflict and mass migration — needs to be considered as urgent priority,” says Steve Trent, executive director of EJF.

The report highlights the situation in the Middle East and Africa, including the worst drought to hit Syria in 900 years. It caused farmers to lose their livestock and livelihoods, which were desperately needed in the context of the war. The report notes that 1 million Syrians were already on the move because of the drought before a single gunshot was fired in the conflict.

And another. Climate change ‘will create world’s biggest refugee crisis’The Guardian (2 Nov). More uplifting reading.

Tens of millions of people will be forced from their homes by climate change in the next decade, creating the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen, according to a new report.

Senior US military and security experts have told the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) study that the number of climate refugees will dwarf those that have fled the Syrian conflict, bringing huge challenges to Europe.

“If Europe thinks they have a problem with migration today … wait 20 years,” said retired US military corps brigadier general Stephen Cheney. “See what happens when climate change drives people out of Africa – the Sahel [sub-Saharan area] especially – and we’re talking now not just one or two million, but 10 or 20 [million]. They are not going to south Africa, they are going across the Mediterranean.”

Kiribati ⇒ Fiji

For those from Kiribati preparing to move to Fiji, the future is now. Fijians wonder what’s in store as I-Kiribatis prepare to move in. Via TVNZ:

Fiji has promised to open its doors to climate change refugees and the government of Kiribati has taken the desperate step of buying land in Fiji for its people to use as a future refuge.

The government of Kiribati, where low lying atolls are at risk from rising sea levels, has paid about $10 million for 15,000 acres of land in Fiji and the village of Naviavia is in the middle of it.

Kiribati government officials visited Naviavia three weeks ago and plan to start growing crops soon.

Locals at Naviavia have mixed feelings.

“That’s a really quality piece of land, good realistic land. We’re talking about millions of dollars. None of us will ever be able to think about purchasing that land,” said Adi Ulamila Wragg, a Fijian chief.

“Most are wondering what is going to happen? Are they going to be part of us or part of our community or are they going to have their own set up rules?” she said.

However there is also an upside to Kiribati people coming to the area.

“We see that they bring new knowledge with them, traditional knowledge. That’s something they can share with us,” Adi Ulamila Wragg said.

The headman of Naviavia village, Marika Sude, worries about the future.

“My concern is what will happen with the people of Kiribati will come. That is the climate change we are facing,” he said.


New Zealand

An experimental visa regime for those displaced by climate change? Government considering experimental climate change visaStuff.NZ (1 Nov).

An experimental visa for people from the Pacific displaced by climate change is to be investigated by the Government.

Climate Change Minister and Greens leader James Shaw said the intention was to work with the Pacific Islands in the coming months and years on an experimental humanitarian visa category for people from the Pacific displaced by rising seas caused by climate change.

At the same time, he did not want to send a message that the Government was giving up on the top priority, which was to “try to prevent catastrophic climate change and therefore have there be no need for people to be displaced”, Shaw told Radio NZ.

Meanwhile – New Zealand’s new leader: We must be ready for ‘climate refugees’CNN (31 Oct).

New Zealand’s new leader, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, tells CNN that her country must be prepared to take in “climate change refugees” from surrounding island nations.

“We need to acknowledge that we are, unless we make dramatic changes, at the front of seeing refugees as a result of climate change,” Arden told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview, her first since taking office last Thursday.


And related: As New Zealand considers a climate migration visa, Pacific Islanders fight to stayPRI ( 3 Nov).

Famously, the 1951 UN Refugee Convention does not cover people displaced across borders due to climate change. Though Fiji had previously committed to providing future climate refuge to Pacific neighbors, the New Zealand proposal marks the first time a developed country has considered addressing the international legal protection gap with a regional visa agreement. In an interview with Radio New Zealand, Climate Change Minister James Shaw noted the proposal is a “piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific Islands.”





On the ever-shrinking Mississippi Delta. Mississippi River Delta Native Americans Face Loss of Land and Homes to Climate ChangeNon Profit Quarterly (6 Nov).




According to a recent UNHCR report, Recent internal displacement directly related to climate factors reached nearly 800,000 in less than eight months.

There was a massive flight of people propelled by drought and food insecurity within (not from) Somalia, where from November 2016 to mid-June 2017 nearly 761,000 climate refugees, defined as “drought-related internal displacements”, were recorded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Have a great week.



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