Darfur, 16 February 2022 (TDI): Climate change and environmental damage have a significant effect on the work of UNHCR and the lives of millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes.

Many people rely on the environment to exist, especially in times of crisis, for food, shelter, energy, fire and warmth, medicine, agriculture, and income-generating activities, to name a few.

Unsustainable resource usage can devastate the ecosystem, with long-term implications for natural resources and the well-being of displaced and host populations. People may also get into fights over limited resources like firewood, water, and grazing land.

Since the 1990s, UNHCR has been more committed to environmental protection and the environmental concerns connected with housing a large population in a small area.

Over the last two decades, UNHCR has started programs and initiatives to improve long-term environmental management, reduce environmental damage, and make more resources available to displaced people and their host communities.

UNHCR climate change efforts.
UNHCR climate change efforts.

Natural disasters and climate change continue to be a source of concern. Since 2009, approximately one person has been relocated every second, with an average of 22.5 million people affected by climate or weather-related incidents since 2008. (GRID, 2018)

The UN’s science advisory body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, predicts an increase in the number of displaced people over the next century.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ population is disproportionately concentrated in the world’s most vulnerable places.

Climate change will exacerbate poverty and displacement, making it even more difficult to aid those in need. This complicates humanitarian demands and activities even further.

UNHCR is very concerned about the huge protection problems caused by disasters and climate-related displacement, and UNHCR is working with other agencies and a wide range of partners to protect the most vulnerable people.

Contribution of UNHCR to Climate Action

Andrew Harper was designated Special Advisor on Climate Action by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in January 2020.

Among other things, he is in charge of UNHCR’s response to the climate emergency and serves as a global advocate. He also helps the organization plan its climate action plan.

UNHCR climate change efforts.
UNHCR climate change efforts.
UNHCR’s approach to climate change is based on three key pillars
1- Legislation and Policy

Assisting the world community with legal advice, guidance, and help in order to protect refugees and other people who have been forced to flee because of natural disasters and climate change, and to help people around the world understand their rights.

2- Operation

UNHCR wants to increase the predictability of their participation through solid partnerships in order to foresee and prepare for emergencies caused by climate-related and other natural disasters.

UNHCR is committed to reversing the environmental deterioration in displacement contexts and improving displaced people’s and host communities’ preparation for and resilience to the consequences of climate change.

Discover the Refugee Environmental Protection Fund will invest in climate-resilient refugee situations all around the world through transformative reforestation and clean cooking projects. UNHCR operational responses take climatic and environmental aspects into account.

Furthermore, it is trying to “green” the whole supply chain by improving supply planning, sourcing, content, manufacturing processes, procurement, delivery, and lifecycle management of crucial humanitarian supplies and other UNHCR commodities.

3UNHCR is minimizing its environmental footprint

UNHCR is minimizing its environmental footprint to increase environmental sustainability by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating negative environmental impacts. Many individuals fleeing the violence in Darfur have fled into eastern Chad, which is extremely hot and arid, with few options.

Since the project’s inception, significant challenges have included wide distances, extremely bad road conditions, searing midday temperatures, sandstorms, a paucity of greenery and firewood, and severe water shortages.

There are few roads in the region, so the rains have blocked them and flooded places where refugees have set up makeshift homes. They have also pushed back the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Even though there were a lot of environmental restrictions, UNHCR set up nine camps and moved most of the people who were fleeing the dangerous border crossing there.