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Climate Refugees are people who have been forcibly displaced due to climate change, losing their homes, their safety, and their means of living. The UN has estimated that unless serious climate action is undertaken across the World, by 2050, 200 million people will require humanitarian assistance every year due to disasters induced by climate change.
The devastating impacts of the climate and nature crises are being felt around the World, from extreme heat waves in the UK and wider Europe, to raging wildfires in Canada. The citizens of Fairbourne in North Wales are facing the very real prospect of becoming the UK’s first Climate Refugees due to rising sea levels brought on by climate change.
This issue is not new, and action is long overdue. In June 2022, over 1,700 people lost their lives due to extreme flooding in Pakistan, leaving 33 million people – including at least 16 million children – displaced. Events like this are only projected to increase in severity and frequency as inaction on climate change continues, resulting in more people becoming displaced and forced to flee their homes as Climate Refugees.
Despite no internationally agreed upon definition for Climate Refugees, YCA Wales believes that Climate Refugees are people who have been forcibly displaced due to impacts on their livelihood generated by climate change. These impacts could include, but are not limited to, the adverse effects of extreme weather events and weather-related disasters, sea-level rising, food and water insecurity, climate-related natural disasters, climate induced-increased resource competition, desertification, land degradation, drought, and any other climate-induced factor that makes a person’s way of living infeasible and uninhabitable respectively. Climate Refugees are not currently recognised as legitimate Refugees in international law – or here in the UK – in the same way as Refugees who are fleeing war or persecution, for example. This discrepancy in the law means that Climate Refugees are not able to access the legal protection afforded to other Refugees.
YCA Wales exists to amplify the voices of young people in Wales and around the World. In 2021, YCA Wales hosted the Wales Youth Climate and Nature Summit alongside WWF Cymru, Eco Schools Wales, Size of Wales, and Keep Wales Tidy. At this national summit, the young people of Wales put forward their concerns about the climate, and actions they would like to see the Welsh Government taking in response. One concern in particular was repeated again and again; this was the impact climate change is having on people in Wales and around the world.
As a collective, we believe that the issue of climate displacement is not being adequately addressed in the mainstream climate conversation. Therefore, we felt it was vital to launch a campaign to advocate for those who are not acknowledged by the majority of the international community.
So, we have launched a petition calling on the UK Government to recognise the status of ‘Climate Refugee’ in the UK: Recognise the status of ‘Climate Refugee’ in the UK
As a group of young people concerned about climate change, we implore that the UK Government recognise the status of ‘Climate Refugee’ in the UK to ensure Climate Refugees are entitled to the same protection, rights, and respect as those who are currently able to obtain ‘Refugee’ status in the UK. We are aiming to collect 10,000 signatures from the UK public, and receive a response from Parliament on this issue. Every signature we collect is a demonstration of solidarity with Climate Refugees, and a recognition that Climate Refugees exist.
YCA Wales feels very strongly about putting legislation in place now, to protect Climate Refugees of the future. Recently, a special UN Rapporteur on Human Rights called on the UN to provide full, legal protection for people displaced by climate change. Speaking outside the Senedd, Chair of YCA Wales Poppy Stowell-Evans stated: “Ignorance towards this issue is unacceptable. A lack of action on this issue is unacceptable. Negligence on this issue is unacceptable.”
Recognising the status of ‘Climate Refugee’ in the UK is an opportunity for the UK to be a World-leader on an issue that is going to become increasingly prevalent as climate change continues to displace people here in the UK and across the World. Delay and inaction on this issue today will lead to human loss and suffering tomorrow.
Together we can create meaningful change, lead the international community, and recognise people who are being forcibly displaced by climate change. Act now, stand with us, and sign the petition today: Recognise the status of ‘Climate Refugee’ in the UK.
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