Philip Pearson, TUED and Trade Union Campaign Against Climate Change
Over 140 million people were forced to move because of climate and weather related disasters in the last six years, displaced by droughts, harvest failures and devastating storms. The UN believes that 300 million people could be displaced from their homes by the middle of this century. However, those displaced by disasters or climate change are not protected by the UN Convention on Refugees. In response to the failure of governments to act, trade unions, refugee and environmental campaigns are organising Europe’s first conference on climate refugees in London on February 11th.
Our warming planet is driving both long-term environmental damage and sudden catastrophes. Rising sea levels are inundating entire Island States in the Pacific, but also threaten coastal communities from Bangladesh to Louisiana.
Drought, water scarcity and agricultural crises in Somalia, Darfur, Syria and sub-Saharan Africa are devastating peoples’ lives and livelihoods, driving people into conflict zones and onward into mass refugee movements where the multiple reasons that compel people to move – fear, hunger, poverty, betterment – become almost indistinguishable.
“Extreme weather events” are already an existential threat: Hurricane Sandy inundating New York City. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, killing over 6,000 people and destroying millions of jobs. Wildfires raging through Fort McMurray, Canada. And flooded cities in the UK.
The growing crisis of climate refugees raises fundamental issue of justice – fundamental rights to life and livelihood, economic, employment and income security. Yet people displaced from their homes as a result of environmental collapse have no legal status in international law, and are vilified as ‘economic migrants’. The overwhelming majority are given safe haven by other poor countries, whilst in the West, racism and xenophobia are leading to demands for more walls and fences.
‘Climate Refugees’ – The Climate Crisis and Population Displacement: Building a Trade Union and Civil Society Response is led by the UK’s Campaign Against Climate Change and Friends of the Earth, and is backed by scores of trade union, environmental and refugee campaigns. It will include expert briefings, and new evidence of the impact of climate change on human security. Campaign Against Climate Change chair Suzanne Jeffrey said, ‘We aim to dispel myths about refugees, debate the need for the need for a global response based on justice and solidarity including the need for legal protection for those being displaced by the climate crisis, and discuss how we can build a powerful movement that can demand stronger government leadership on this fundamental issue.’
National Union of Teachers Conference Centre, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, Euston, London
Event page: http://www.campaigncc.org/nationalconference