One year ago today, the Trump administration made its ill-advised decision to withdraw the United States from the historic Paris Climate Accord. The decision effectively sidelined the United States on this critical issue, moving the country from a position of international leadership on the climate crisis and undermining global efforts to establish a cleaner, more stable world.
But the good news is that despite the absence of U.S. presidential leadership on climate policy, other countries – along with states, cities, and communities within the United States and around the globe – are moving forward. Important progress is being made including with respect to the impacts of climate change on forced displacement.
Last week, I joined almost 100 representatives of national governments, UN agencies, leading academic institutions, civil society organizations, and the private sector at a stakeholders’ meeting with the Task Force on Displacement (TFD) established under the Paris Accord. The mandate of the TFD is to develop integrated approaches to avert, minimize, and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change. During the meeting, participants identified solutions and provided concrete input into the TFD’s recommendations, which will be reported to countries in December 2018 at the next round of climate change negotiations in Katowice, Poland. Refugees International’s written submission stressed the importance of acting on opportunities to minimize forced displacement from extreme weather events like hurricanes through improved risk management, thereby avoiding the protracted displacement we are seeing in Puerto Rico and other parts of the United States and the Caribbean which were slammed by last year’s wave of powerful hurricanes.
And this coming Monday, June 5, I will head back up to UN headquarters in New York where UN member states are meeting for the fifth round of negotiations on a global compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration. Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration also decided to sit this one out. The United States refused to join the negotiations which seek to improve international cooperative efforts to address the enormous challenges and human catastrophe resulting from disorderly and unsafe migration, which is playing out around the world and at our own borders today.
Significantly, the latest draft of the migration compact includes commitments by countries to enhance protection and assistance for vulnerable communities that are uprooted by disasters brought on by extreme weather as well as slower-onset climate change adverse effects such as sea level rise. This commitment marks significant and critical progress in efforts to protect millions of at-risk communities around the globe who at present, lack legal protection under the 1951 Refugees Convention and its Protocol. Refugees International has urged states to act on this opportunity to enhance protection and promote the human rights for persons uprooted by disasters and climate change in the migration compact and its sister compact, the UN global compact on refugees.
Given that it will take several more years for the United States to formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, there is still time for the Trump administration and Members of Congress to get on board and show leadership and global stewardship. But not doing so won’t stop the rest of us from striving to move the forward toward a cleaner, safer, and more prosperous planet.