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UNHCR backs increased protection for people fleeing disasters and climate change

A man stands in a flooded section of Nget Chaung camp for internally displaced people in Pauktaw township, Rakhine State. UNHCR was at Nget Chaung to assess damage and identify needs after Cyclone Komen recently swept through western Myanmar.

A man stands in a flooded section of Nget Chaung camp for internally displaced people in Pauktaw township, Rakhine State. UNHCR was at Nget Chaung to assess damage and identify needs after Cyclone Komen recently swept through western Myanmar. © UNHCr / S. L. Bik

GENEVA, Oct 14, (UNHCR)—The UN refugee agency has joined 110 nations in pledging to strengthen steps to protect people displaced across borders by disasters and climate change and launched an overview highlighting its work in the area.

Delegates endorsed the “Agenda for the Protection of Cross-Border Displaced Persons in the Context of Disasters and Climate Change” at a two-day Nansen Initiative Global Consultation 2015 in Geneva, which concluded on Tuesday

The non-binding agreement adopted at the meeting seeks to protect people driven to other countries by disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, droughts and rising sea levels, some of which have been linked to climate change.

“Among the most important lessons derived from the Nansen Initiative is that states can prevent and prepare for increased displacement in future when the right policies are in place,” UNHCR said in a news release.

A new overview by the UN refugee agency—UNHCR, the Environment and Climate Change—sets out why climate change and disaster displacement are of concern to UNHCR and outlines measures it is taking to enhance the resilience of its persons of concern.

The overview comes at a time when more and more people are vulnerable to disasters and climate change, with one person displaced every second, andthe majority of the almost 60 million people displaced around the world today situated in so-called ‘climate change hotspots’.

Experts say climate change will only compound other megatrends, including food and water insecurity, and competition over resources.

The Paris Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP21, to be held 30 Nov-11 Dec 2015, is set to frame issues surrounding climate change. With the Conference only a few weeks away, UNHCR is renewing its call for states to conclude a meaningful agreement that must take into account the growth of climate-change related human mobility and the need to take proactive measures in response.

“Radical action is required of us now to mitigate against the worst effects of climate change. The Paris agreement presents an opportunity to achieve this,” said Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, in his keynote address at the Nansen Initiative Global Consultation in Geneva on Monday.

UNHCR is tackling climate and disaster displacement through a number of initiatives set out in the overview. This includes developing guidance, together with the Brookings Institution and Georgetown University, on planned relocation of populations threatened by disasters and climate change.

Download the overview UNHCR, the Environment and Climate Change