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People in poorer countries five times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather

By Oxfam

People in low and lower-middle income countries were around five times more likely than people in high-income countries to be displaced by sudden extreme weather disasters, said Oxfam today

In Uprooted by Climate Change,” a report released today ahead of the UN Climate Conference next week, Oxfam illustrates the ruthless inequality of climate change; poor communities, whose greenhouse gas emissions are barely measurable, are at a much higher risk of displacement than those who are doing the most harm to the environment.

“While climate hazards are natural events in weather cycles, we are currently witnessing a scale of destruction and devastation that is new and disturbing, leaving millions of people homeless who did nothing to contribute to the impacts,” said Oxfam America’s Climate and Energy Director Heather Coleman. “World leaders need to wake up to our new climate reality and take action to ensure communities on the frontlines, both here in the US and globally, are able to adapt and prepare for climate impacts.”

Oxfam estimates around 3.2 million people in low-income countries were newly displaced in the first nine months of 2017, of whom 1.9 million, or more than half, were displaced by drought.

Data from 2008 to 2016 shows that on average, extreme weather displaced 14 million people (0.42 percent of the population) in poor countries, compared to approximately 1 million (0.08 percent) in high-income countries. In total, 23.5 million people were newly displaced in 2016 by extreme weather. This total is likely an understatement because these numbers don’t account for “slow-onset” disasters like drought and sea-level rise.

The United Nation’s climate conference, COP23, starts November 6 in Bonn, Germany and will be chaired by Fiji, the first small island nation to do so and a country who is on the frontlines and feeling the devastating impacts of climate change.

“While this is the first climate change negotiations to happen after President Trump’s intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, American leaders from businesses, states and civil society are standing strong together and committed to meeting its goals,”  continued Coleman.

The report also describes how women, children and indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected by climate change. For women, being displaced means higher risks of violence and greater difficulty getting the help they need.

“Uprooted by Climate Change” shows how people on the frontlines of climate change are dealing with the threat of displacement. For example, communities in Kiribati intend to do everything possible to remain on their islands, despite the rising seas and higher storm surges. For them, like many so other communities, relocation is a last resort.

“I hope that my people remain here, living with the surroundings we’re familiar with, where our parents and ancestors are buried,” said Claire Anterea, a local environmental leader and Oxfam partner. “That’s what my hope for my country is, for things to remain as simple as this and as beautiful as always.”

Oxfam is calling on government leaders to deliver:

  • Steeper emission cuts: Countries must agree to make next year’s “Facilitative Dialogue” a crucial moment to deepen emission cuts to strive to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Loss and damage” finance: Communities on the climate frontlines can’t be the only ones picking up the tab. Parties should make progress on how to provide relief to those who need it most.
  • Finance for climate change mitigation and adaptation: Rich countries still have a long way to go to meet the finance goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement and must show how they’ll get there.
  • A united front in this fight: Any effort by the Trump administration in the United States to weaken the Paris Agreement must be soundly rejected by all parties.
  • International protection: The UN’s “global compacts” on refugees and migrants, due next year, should include protections for people forced across borders by natural disasters.

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