As the UN warns that the number of refugees is at its highest since the second world war, campaigners have called for more to be done to protect the millions of people displaced by the impacts of climate change.
To mark World Refugee Day on Friday, the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) has released figures that show over 51 million people were living as refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced persons at the end of 2013.
A massive increase of 6 million from 2012 has been driven mostly by conflict in Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
However, campaigners are now urging the UN to establish a Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Climate Change, to ensure that people specifically displaced by environmental pressures have access to assistance and protection.
The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) estimates that between 2008 and 2012, 119.9 million people – seven times the number of refugees recognised by UNHCR – were displaced by climate-related disasters.
“Around the world, people depend on the environment as sources of security – livelihoods security, food security, even physical security”, Steve Trent, executive director of EJF, told Blue & Green Tomorrow.
“Gradual changes like irregular rainfall patterns and sea-level rise or abrupt disasters like floods and cyclones can all severely impact the security of vulnerable households.
“Sometimes, a household might pull a child out of school and send them to work in a nearby town. Or an entire family might have to move into a temporary camp or even across a border. Or an entire island might be lost, its people rendered stateless. All of these people are climate refugees.”
The EJF notes that despite their growing numbers, there is no international legal or policy framework that defines these people or lays out procedures to help them.
The majority of the communities most at risk inhabit vulnerable dryland areas, low-lying and coastal areas or mountainous regions in the poorer corners of the world.
The many countries already affected include places like Kiribati, Vietnam, Mali and Peru. However, Australians fleeing from wildfires, or Europeans forced from their homes by unseasonal weather, also count.
Though the stories of climate refugees’ differ drastically, life for many is dangerous.
“Haredo Jimale told us how she walked for eight days through war-torn Somalia with her two young children to get to a camp in Kenya after extreme drought decimated her crops. She was just one of the 400,000 Somalians to make the same journey for the same reasons between 2010 and 2012”, Trent said.
A big part of the problem, Trent explained, is that even when these people get to a relatively safe haven – a camp, or more often a new, unfamiliar city – they live in a legal vacuum.
“People who flee across borders because the very existence of their nation is threatened by climate change are effectively stateless”, he said.
“No one is obliged to shelter them, grant them citizenship or even respect their social, political and cultural rights. When you aren’t legally recognised as having any rights, even to a nationality, there is a whole host of ways that your life can become a living nightmare.”
Many end up spending years in camps, moving into slums, or being forced into unsafe or demeaning jobs.
Experts fear that the situation is only likely to get worse, as the impacts of climate change grow in strength and regularity.
In February, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), warned that unabated global warming could displace up to 1 billion people by 2050.
Displacement also leads to war – US military leaders recently described climate change as a “catalyst for conflict” while severe droughts have been blamed for the bloodshed in Syria.
Some disasters are already guaranteed, regardless of mitigation efforts. Recently, scientists found that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now irreversible.
This means global sea levels will inevitably rise by up to 4 metres (13ft). Low-lying islands or coastal states, like the Marshall Islands and Bangladesh, are in the firing line.
“We have committed to the literal disappearance of entire nations under the rising oceans as well as the submersion of some of the coastal areas which constitute the world’s most densely-populated regions”, Trent added.
The EJF is asking the public to support their campaign to afford climate refugees status and aid through its postcards initiative, which encourages supporters to take a photo explaining what home means to them. Every image will be sent to the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.
“Climate refugees are the human face of climate change”, Trent said.
“We all have a part to play in ensuring that the victims of our collective failure to prevent climate change have adequate access to protection and assistance.”
Photo: European Commission DG ECHO via Flickr
4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again
As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.
Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.
Jars and Containers
Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.
An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.
Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!
If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!
Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!
These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money
The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.
Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.
Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.
Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale
The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.
Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.
Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI
It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.
Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.
Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.
Implementing green changes without a plan
Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.
Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:
- How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
- How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
- How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
- How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?
The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.
Not considering the benefits of green printing
Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.
Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.
According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:
- They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
- They consume less energy than traditional printers.
- They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.
You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.
Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers
Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.
The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.
You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.
Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.
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