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Climate Change

What We Do
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The Storm Ahead

The Earth's climate is changing at a rate that has exceeded most scientific forecasts. Some families and communities have already started to suffer from the negative side of climate change, forced to leave their homes in search of a new beginning.

For UNHCR, the consequences of climate change are enormous. Scarce natural resources such as drinking water are likely to become even more limited. Many crops and some livestock are unlikely to survive in certain locations if conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet. Food security, already a significant concern, will become even more challenging.

People will have to try and adapt to this situation, but for many this will mean a conscious move to another place to survive. Such moves, or the adverse effects that climate change may have on natural resources, may spark conflict with other communities, as an increasing number of people compete for a decreasing amount of resources.

In addition to working on vital human rights issues relating to population displacement induced by climate change, UNHCR will adapt much of its environment-related planning and work to address the effects of climate change.

Expert Meeting on Climate Change and Displacement Rss FeedExpert Meeting on Climate Change and Displacement

22-25 February 2011, Bellagio, Italy

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Presentations on Climate Change

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UNHCR Press briefing at COP15, Copenhagen, December 2009

Ethiopia: A Green Refugee CampPlay video

Ethiopia: A Green Refugee Camp

A refugee camp might seem like an unlikely place for a conservation project. but Sherkole in the western highlands of Ethiopia is showing that it can be done. The results are positive.

Climate change and displacement

In the past few years, millions of people have been displaced by natural disasters, most of which are considered to be the direct result of climate change. Sudden weather events, such as Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis in 2008, widespread flooding in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps in 2006 and the drought that hit Ethiopia in the 1980s, can leave huge numbers of people traumatized and without access to shelter, clean water and basic supplies.

The international community has entrusted UNHCR with responsibility for protecting and assisting people who are forcibly displaced and who cannot return safely home. Although the majority of people displaced by climate change will remain within their own borders, where states have clearly defined responsibilities, additional support may be required.

When called upon to intervene, UNHCR can deploy emergency teams and provide concrete support in terms of registration, documentation, family reunification and the provision of shelter, basic hygiene and nutrition.

Among those who are displaced across borders as a result of climate change, some will be refugees while others may not meet the definition. Nevertheless, many may be in need of protection and assistance.

Climate change and displacement

UNHCR and Climate Change

Where people flee, UNHCR is there to help.

Climate Change Policy Paper

Climate change, natural disasters and human displacement: a UNHCR perspective.

The Management of Humanitarian Emergencies Caused by Extreme Climate Events

UNHCR Emergency Preparedness and Response Briefing Note, April 2009.

The Future is Now

By Craig L. Johnstone, former UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, in Forced Migration Review, Issue 31, "Climate change and displacement". See also Water - new challenges, by Paul Spiegel et al. Visit the Forced Migration Review website and read the full issue (external link).

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

The United Nations Climate Change Conference, Poznañ, Poland, 1-12 December 2008. See also: Webcast of UNHCR side event at Poznañ (external link).