UNHCR Reviews its Role in Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change
October 2009: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has released a fact sheet on the involvement, challenges and responses that the organization is facing in addressing the impacts of climate change.
Currently, UNHCR estimates that the number of refugees worldwide exceeds 15 million, with an additional 26 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled persecution. Climate change is expected to increase the number of people who are displaced and unable to return to their homes. Nevertheless, UNHCR notes that the term ‘climate refugee' is not appropriate, as the existing refugee regimes and legal definitions focus on refugees and IDPs who have fled from persecution.
The publication notes that the lack of formal internal protection for those who are displaced due to environmental reasons increases the challenge that climate change poses for the work of humanitarian agencies such as the UNHCR. In response to this situation, UNCHR is engaging with partners within the humanitarian community to integrate disaster risk reduction into country programmes to prepare for natural disaster emergencies. Through appropriate inter-agency frameworks, UNHCR will also attempt to provide protection to all IDPs, including those fleeing from natural disasters. [UNHCR and Climate Change]