World Humanitarian Summit and climate-induced displaced people
World Humanitarian Summit and climate-induced displaced people
(Dacca, 7th May, 2016)
The Speech of The Ambassador-
I thank you for inviting me to give you the approach of my country to the issue addressed today.
Climate induced displacements are a complex issue, mainly for two reasons:
• First, because the relation between climate disruption and migration is difficult to qualify,
• Second, because any phenomenon has to be named first, before being addressed.
Talking about climate change, we are not talking about the natural phenomenon, which has always been part of the life of our planet.
In the international negotiations within the UNFCCC framework, we are addressing the pace climate is changing towards higher temperature induced by human activity and on the verge of being out of control of our global society.
1. Regarding the relation between climate disruption and human displacements: it does exist but we must recognize that it is difficult to identify and qualify.
1.1 Climate disruption induces speed up of human displacements, because it provokes the degradation of environment and living conditions. This is the case with extreme climate disasters, such as storm, floods, sea level increase, desertification…
Nevertheless, the reasons for these human displacements are diverse and numerous. Considering displacements induced by environmental events, it’s difficult to identify what is induced by an environmental disaster on the one hand, and by climate disruption on the other hand.
This is the reason why the relation between climate change and decision to leave one’s home can’t be clearly established. And this is why the phenomenon is hard to qualify and to quantify.
1.2 As a consequence, figures have to be taken very carefully.
For example, according to the last IPCC report, a 50 cm-increase of sea level would force 72 M people to move. A 2 meter-increase would force 187 M people to move.
Other organisations give different figures. HCR talks about 250 M people, IOM talks about 1 Bn people who could have to leave their places by 2050, because of natural disasters including climate disruption. But this approach also includes all natural phenomena and also earthquakes for example.
Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre assessment is that in average 27,5 M people left their home every year between 2008 and 2013, because of natural disasters. In 2013, Asia was the most impacted continent (for 87%), but Africa and small insular states were also impacted.
But leaving one’s rural place for the cities has always been part of the evolution of our world.
All these observations are the reason why there is no international consensus regarding the phenomenon of climate-induced human displacements.
But one observation is common and shared: it is that climate-induced displacements are mainly internal displacements, within the borders of a country, rather than international displacements and mainly for urban areas.
2. Second, climate-induced displaced people can’t be assimilated to refugees, from a legal perspective.
The difficulty to assess the phenomenon is reflected in the approach to this issue by international law.
2.1 There is no specific legal protection granted to the people leaving their homes for climate or environmental reasons.
Climate change-induced displaced people don’t enter under the legal criteria qualifying refugees in the sense of the 1951 Convention defining the refugee status, that is people victims of persecutions.
That’s why the expression “climate refugees” has no legal basis in international law and using it creates a legal ambiguity. That’s why IPCC as well as HCR consider that this expression must not be used.
2.2 That’s also why France uses the expression “environmental displaced people or migrants”:
• In order to qualify the categories of people leaving their homes because of environmental disasters be it because of climate disruption or not;
• And in order to outline that climate negotiations within the framework of the conferences of Parties don’t integrate in their scope environmental displaced people or migrants, all the more as this issue goes far beyond the sole climate disruption issue.
2.3 Regarding climate-induced displacements within a country, which are the huge majority of the displacements observed, they are under the responsibility of the concerned states, as these displacements regard their population and their territory.
Nevertheless, they can be considered under the « 1988 principles related to displacements within one’s own country » established by the UN.
They can also benefit from the protection and support granted by humanitarian actors in case of a crisis, be it natural disaster or conflict, and they also benefit from public development aid (this is the case for example in the Sahel in Africa).
Considering the uncertainties around this phenomenon of climate induced-migration, my country is not in favour of the creation of a specific legal regime for climate-induced displaced people.
But this doesn’t mean that a growing attention isn’t drawn worldwide on this issue.
3. The reflexion is now about an agenda for climate induced-displaced people.
3.1 As we all know, the major initiative taken in this regard is the “Nansen initiative”. It was launched in 2011 by Switzerland and Norway, in collaboration with HCR and IOM.
This informal initiative aims at improving our global knowledge on this issue, implementing good practices and building a program to protect the environmental migrants. At the beginning, this initiative was focusing on trans-border migrants fleeing natural disasters.
This initiative is a consultative process, involving the states affected by this phenomenon, in order to implement ad hoc regional agreements.
France joined the group of the Friends of the initiative early 2014.
The goal of this initiative is not to negotiate a legal document but to reach a political consensus regarding the standards of protection of the people displaced through borders because of natural disasters. At this stage, there is still no consensus.
3.2 As said before, the climate-induced migrants issue is not in the core of the international negotiations led within the UNFCCC framework. The fate of people displaced by climate change couldn’t be decided in Paris. Because in Paris, the goal was to get a legally binding agreement in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But as recalled before the Cancun agreements recognized that displacements were one of the consequences of climate disruption.
Besides, the Warsaw mechanism on loss and damage created in 2013 has been mandated to improve understanding and expertise regarding the way climate change impacts can affect human mobility. In one of its decisions COP21 also asked the executive committee of the Warsaw mechanism to prepare recommendations on prevention and reduction of displacements induced by climate disruption. This mechanism is expected to present its conclusions at COP22.
At this stage, this is what I can say regarding the practical and legal analyses of my country./.