UNHCR: World must turn COP26 words into action for forcibly displaced and stateless people

12 November 2021, UNHCR

This is a summary of what was said by Andrew Harper, Special Advisor on Climate Action to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The climate crisis is a human crisis. It is here now with consequences for everyone, everywhere.

However, countries and communities with fewer resources, and less capacity to adapt to an increasingly inhospitable environment, are facing the worst impacts. Climate change is intensifying the threats to people’s safety, security, and dignity by worsening poverty and sustainable access to food, water and livelihoods.

This week at COP26, I highlighted the impact of the climate emergency on refugees, displaced and stateless people. Ninety per cent of refugees under the mandate of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and 70 per cent of people internally displaced by conflict are from countries that are among the most vulnerable to climate change. Millions more are forced from their homes every year by weather-related disasters.

Displaced communities living in climate vulnerable hotspots face threats to their lives and livelihoods. Without sufficient help to adapt, the cycles of crisis and displacement will continue and worsen.

Women, children, older people, people with disabilities, and indigenous peoples are often disproportionately affected. Sustainable development goals, and other efforts to ensure the rights of these groups, are undermined by our collective neglect to reduce carbon emissions and finance adaptation. 

In Glasgow, UNHCR has called for increased action and support to avert, minimize, and address displacement, and for increased adaptation support, in particular for displaced and host communities.

We welcome efforts to mitigate emissions, increase financing and support for adaptation, and address loss and damage. However, we are concerned that COP26 has not outlined concrete actions to realize the commitments in these areas, which will be essential to protect vulnerable communities around the world and avoid devastating consequences for millions of refugees, displaced and stateless people.

Global leaders must double down on building defenses for those who are hardest hit by the climate crisis. This will require financial, technological, and capacity support to those who are already working on the ground to fortify and protect their communities.

States must implement their commitments to limit warming to 1.5°C  and secure global net-zero by mid-century.

The meaningful participation and leadership of displaced communities must be ensured in climate research, adaptation, and mitigation efforts.

Commitments must be met for US$100 billion annually to fund climate action. Half of these funds need to be used for adaption.

If these efforts fall short, millions of refugees, displaced, and stateless people will be severely impacted.

UNHCR is already working to protect people on the frontlines of the climate crisis by supporting the resilience of displaced people in the face of accelerating climate risk. To meet this moment, we are playing our part, but collective efforts are urgently needed to drastically reduce emissions and support adaptation.

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