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COVID-19 crisis offers lesson on climate response for refugees

COVID-19 crisis offers lesson on climate response for refugees

Global response to the COVID-19 pandemic offers insights on how to mitigate the impact of climate change on displaced populations, says UNHCR’s Gillian Triggs.

The COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as a test case for the world’s emergency preparedness to respond to the impacts of climate change, particularly on the most vulnerable populations such as refugees and internally displaced people, a virtual meeting hosted by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, heard on Wednesday.

“COVID has really woken us up and shown that some emergencies will affect us all globally, and we must work together to solve them,” UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, told participants in an online session of the annual High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges.

Unlike the current pandemic, however, which has seen governments swiftly adopt measures to control its spread and mitigate the social and economic impacts, the climate crisis is not yet being met with the same sense of urgency, Triggs warned.
“Both climate change and the COVID pandemic transcend borders and threaten millions of lives,” Triggs added. “Sadly, refugees and displaced people are among the most vulnerable in the world to the disease, and to the effects of climate change.”

Last year alone, weather-related events triggered some 24.9 million displacements in 140 countries. Research shows that without ambitious climate action and disaster risk reduction, climate-related disasters could double the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance to over 200 million each year by 2050.