Participants from ecumenical, non-governmental and international organisations, as well as churches, gathered in Bossey, Switzerland, from 22 to 23 May in a World Council of Churches (WCC) conference to address the impact of displacements induced by climate change
The conference, focusing on the theme 'Climate change-induced displacement: What is at stake?' was organised by the WCC programme on Climate Change, in partnership with the Pacific Council of Churches and the German development agency Bread for the World.
Participants in the conference analysed the progress made by the international community since 2010, following the conference on Protection and Reparations for 'Climate Refugees'.
Within this international framework, presenters shared case studies from Bangladesh, India and Africa to illustrate the “vulnerabilities and capabilities” of communities affected by climate change.
Presentations and working groups assessed the challenges of resettlement in the Pacific, as well as adaptation and disaster-risk reduction in Central America. The discussions elaborated on the developments in understanding the rights of victims of climate change at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences, the Human Rights Council and the process toward United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20.
A session at the event focused on how churches are accompanying communities uprooted by the impact of climate change. In light of the rights of refugees and migrants, and building on the WCC’s engagement in this area, the event showed how churches are engaged in and calling for renewed commitment in pastoral care, capacity building and advocacy efforts.
“For Bangladesh, addressing migration and the plight of individuals displaced from their communities due to climate change is an imperative,” said Saber Hossain Chowdhury, member of the parliament and chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Climate Change and Environment of Bangladesh, as he explained the situation in his country.
Ethical and moral grounds for effective responses to displacement caused by environmental disasters were also discussed.
“The cry for climate justice from victims in different regions shows that climate change is already a threat to vulnerable communities,” said Dr Guillermo Kerber, WCC programme executive on climate change.
“Together with their ethical insights, churches and faith-based communities highlight the theological and spiritual dimensions of the climate crisis, accompanying resilient communities in their adaptation strategies,” Kerber added.
Discussion of appropriate terminology should not prevent urgent actions responding to the plight of “climate refugees”, a report of a working group affirmed.
Participants expressed their commitment to share the reflections from the conference with their communities and to adapt the conclusions in their advocacy work.