Climate fuelled disasters were the number one driver of displacement within countries over the last decade, forcing more than 20 million people to leave their homes each year, Oxfam said today.

The contentious issue of financial support for communities that have suffered loss and damage as a result of the climate crisis, including people who have been forced to leave their homes, is expected to take centre stage at the UN Climate Summit in Madrid, Spain, from 02 to 13 December 2019.

Oxfam’s briefing ‘Forced from Home’ reveals that people are seven times more likely to be internally displaced by cyclones, floods and wildfires, than they are by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and three times more likely than by conflict.

While nobody is immune – in recent weeks wildfires in Australia and floods in Europe have displaced thousands of people – Oxfam’s analysis shows that people in poor countries, who bear the least responsibility for global carbon pollution, are most at risk.

Oxfam Australia Climate Change Advisor Simon Bradshaw said our neighbours in the Pacific had contributed the least to the causes of the climate crisis, but were already suffering the worst impacts.

“The current bushfires in Australia have shown that nobody is immune to the impacts of the climate crisis,” Dr Bradshaw said. “Our research reaffirms that communities in the Pacific face particularly severe impacts from global heating, including being forced from their homes by extreme weather disasters.

“The Australian Government needs to move beyond coal and back the Pacific Islands and other vulnerable nations in their calls for a new loss and damage finance facility under the Paris Agreement. It’s only fair that we add our support to this, as well as further cutting our emissions, considering our much greater responsibility for the crisis.”

Small Island Developing States, including some of Australia’s neighbours, make up seven of the 10 countries facing the highest risk of internal displacement from extreme weather events. On average, nearly 5% of the populations of Tuvalu, Cuba and Dominica, were displaced by extreme weather each year in the decade between 2008 and 2018. However, Small Island Developing States per capita emissions are about a third of those in high-income countries

The unequal impacts of the climate crisis are apparent across the globe. People in low and lower-middle income countries such as India, Nigeria and Bolivia are more than four times likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than people in rich countries such as the United States or Australia. About 80 % of all people displaced in the last decade live in Asia – home to 60 % of the world’s population and more than a third of the people globally who are living extreme poverty.

Chema Vera, Acting Executive Director of Oxfam International, said, “Our governments are fuelling a crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes and the poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price. Governments can and must make Madrid matter. They must commit to faster, deeper emissions cuts and establish a new ‘Loss and Damage’ fund to help poor communities recover from climate disasters.”

The UN is due to conclude a review of the progress made under the ‘Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage’ at the summit in Madrid, and developing countries will be pushing for a new fund to help communities recover and rebuild after climate shocks. Rich donor countries have largely left poor countries to cover the rising costs of extreme weather disasters themselves. New Oxfam analysis shows that economic losses from extreme weather disasters over the last decade were, on average, equivalent to two percent of countries’ national income. That figure is much higher for many developing countries – up to an astonishing 20 percent for Small Island Developing States.

The briefing shows that it is the poorest in society who are most vulnerable to climate-fuelled displacement. For example, in March 2019 Cyclone Idai displaced 51,000 people in Zimbabwe. The most affected communities lived in rural areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge where poor infrastructure and housing were unable to withstand the heavy rains and wind. Displaced women are particularly vulnerable as they, for example, face high levels of sexual violence.

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