"Climate change is not recognized as a cause of displacement – an extreme injustice"

In 2021, 22 million people lost their homes to natural disasters. Fawad Durrani, Greenpeace expert on the connection between climate change, displacement and conflict, believes that global warming is multiplying the causes of displacement. 

Mr. Durrani, why are people who are being displaced due to climate change not protected? 

Some can return to their homelands later; for others this option is not available. They go to the slums of the big cities, to neighbouring countries or, in rare cases, travel as far as Europe, Australia or the USA to support their families. But there, the effects of climate change are not considered a reason for fleeing. This is an extreme injustice: those most affected by the effects of climate change are the least likely to have contributed to this crisis. 

To what extent is climate change multiplying the causes of displacement? 

One aspect is that more people are losing their livelihoods. At the same time, climate change can exacerbate existing conflicts, for example, when armed groups offer impoverished populations a source of income and thus gain support for battles that are also being fought for increasingly scarce resources. In Afghanistan, where I come from, there is another aspect: Afghanistan’s glaciers are melting, and water is becoming increasingly scarce. Farmers need to grow crops that require less water. One of them is opium. The drug trade, in turn, has intensified conflicts in the country. Even if it is not possible to quantify exactly how much each individual factor contributes to the respective situation: we must recognize the aggravation caused by climate change and deal with it. 

What can we do for people who are in particular danger right now? 

First, we must limit global warming in accordance with the Paris Climate Agreement. Those displaced by climate change must also be given a legally binding status that grants them protection instead of criminalising them, as has often been the case in the past. In addition, the world community needs to provide the most endangered and vulnerable countries with the financial support they need to adapt to climate change. 

19. SEPTEMBER 2022