Climate shocks as drivers of migration might be long present in the environmental narrative, but they are hardly being addressed on a policy level. According to MEP Pier Antonio Panzeri, the lack of a legal definition of ‘climate refugees’ effectively excludes the issue from international agendas – and creates space for generalized scepticism.
It is high-time that analysts, researchers and politicians involved in migration report the impossibility of drawing clear boundaries between the various types of migrants. There is a distinction between political and economic migrants, but the situation is much more fluid than that. In fact, there are also migrants of a climatic nature, people forced to abandon their lands temporarily in the event of environmental stress, or permanently, when irreparable natural disasters occur or when the resources needed to support the populations have been exhausted. The vulnerable populations are often the ones that pay the price in this devastating process, even though they are the least culpable, and they are forced to leave their lands. In fact, an estimated 25.4 million people are being displaced each year due to extreme weather-related disasters.
We started talking about climate refugees almost 50 years ago, but there is not yet a legal definition that guarantees the protection of those vulnerable categories. That means there is no tool that would allow us to face the challenge represented by climate-induced migration. Today, these subjects do not have any legal recognition on an international level. We need to build an itinerary that allows us to consider the situation of climate migrants as an important topic for discussion at the international level.
“There is no tool that would allow us to face the challenge represented by climate-induced migration.”
At the European Parliament, we discussed the Global Compact on Migration extensively. I insisted on adding a paragraph about the necessity of a juridical definition of “climate refugee”, however, my proposal was ultimately declined. A significant portion of the Parliament still think that migration is a kind of accident in our history, and that climate change is a pathology that emerged from left-wing politics. This part, which we could identify in right-wing parties, is not at all in favour of a reception policy. In their opinion, establishing a new refugee definition for people escaping climate impacts would make it easier for migrants to be accepted in Europe. This is why they push for adopting the expression "climate migrants" instead of "climate refugees". In fact, it seems that "refugee" creates obligations for the state, while the term "migrant" does not. But this is clearly incorrect, because migration means voluntary displacement and this is not the case for people who are displaced by climate impacts. We want to fight the ignorance through a political and cultural jolt.
Pier Antonio Panzeri is an Italian politician and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the S&D Alliance. He currently holds the Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights and has been a member of the ‘Delegation for relations with the Maghreb countries and the Arab Maghreb Union’ since 2009, where he held the Chair for 7 years. His main activity as an MEP encompasses deliberating on human rights issues in North Africa and the Middle East.
For the first time in the survey’s 10-year outlook, the top five global risks in terms of likelihood are all environmental. They are: extreme weather events, failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, major natural disasters, major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, and human-made environmental damage and disasters.
Millions of people across Sub-Saharan Africa could face grave hunger in the first half of 2020 because of armed conflict, political instability and climate change-linked disasters, a report says.
The report published by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) this month says that the countries affected will require life-saving food assistance and investment to prevent humanitarian catastrophes.
Australia is currently experiencing one of its worst bushfire seasons, with swathes of the southern and eastern coastal regions having been ablaze for weeks. As the fires have spread, there has been extensive media coverage both nationally and internationally documenting – and debating – their impacts. This Carbon Brief overview summarises how the fires – and the political response to them – have been covered by the media.
The latest climate talks unravelled when parties failed to reach consensus on the global carbon market mandated by the Paris Agreement. The carbon market controversy emerged amidst new tensions between a growing grassroots climate movement and the climate sceptic agenda of populist leaders. The ball is now in the court of the climate laggards, but they can only halt global climate action for so long.