It is estimated that 10 million people world-wide have been driven out of their homes by the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels, drought, flooding, and other impacts. Sub-Saharan African is acutely feeling the effects of climate change, which is driving Africa’s displacement crisis to new heights.

Oxford University professor Norman Myers, estimates that numbers of climate refugees will increase to 150 million over the next 50 years, replacing war and persecution as the leading cause of global displacement. In Dadaab, Kenya, a refugee camp built for 90,000 people now houses more than 270,000 displaced persons – over three times the amount for which it was originally built.UN officials estimate as many as 10% of Dadaab’s residents are climate refugees. Many farmers have been pushed from their homes because weather conditions have forced them to abandon fruitless crops or dying herds of livestock.

The rising crisis of climate refugees highlights the massive gaps in international and domestic refugee policy. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) has no policy that deals with climate change refugees. Under the 1951 Geneva Convention, refugees are defined as people fleeing their country because of violence or persecution.

Population displacement as a result of climate change will place an unprecedented burden on countries that have no plans in place for a sudden influx of persons forced to abandon their countries and livelihoods. ACT will study urgent considerations for Canada and other countries likely to become hosts to refugees, such as governance, employment impacts, health care and housing, during its six-month session on population displacement.