Activists Demand Climate Refugees Be Recognized

An Isolated Nation, Not an Isolated Issue

Kiribati’s situation speaks volumes about climate change. Its inhabitants, like the majority of the world’s population from the Global South, have done little to cause climate change. Yet those same people are facing its worst consequences. Recent research shows that just 100 corporations are responsible for 70 percent of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere since 1988.

This Issue Needs Systemic Redress

While rising sea levels now threaten every low lying island on Earth, climate change is also causing people to flee their homes — moving both within their countries of origin and across borders for sanctuary — due to other factors. The Syrian Civil war is one example, where extreme drought caused masses of people to leave rural areas for the cities, increasing economic instability. Similarly, extreme weather events such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines both kill people and destroy homes; more than 4 million people were displaced alone by this super-typhoon.

Seeking a Response at Fiji COP 23

By 2050, based on conservative estimates, the UN expects that there will be over 250 million climate refugees. A core problem is that these people are not currently recognized in international law, which means they receive no legal protection. This is because the law was mainly written after WWII, in response to the genocide and persecution of the Holocaust.

Unions Uniting for Climate Justice

The U.K. is one place taking a lead on climate refugees. In February, London united environmentalists with trade unions for the first time in a conference held about the issue. The conference highlighted the intersectionality of the crisis — and how it can unite activists and campaigners working on human rights with those working in the environment and trade unions.



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Steve Rushton

Steve Rushton

Freelance journalist focused on political alternatives, universal rights and ecological survival