A Person Forced From Home Every Two Seconds By Climate Related Disasters

Climate finance key issue as UN summit begins in Madrid with just 12 months until pivotal talks in Glasgow.

Climate-fuelled disasters were the number one driver of internal displacement over the last decade, forcing more than 20 million people a year – one person every two seconds - to leave their homes, according to a report published by Oxfam today.  

The contentious issue of financial support for communities, including displaced communities, which have suffered loss and damage because of the climate crisis is expected to take centre stage at the UN Climate Summit in Madrid from 2 – 13 December 2019.

The talks come just 12 months before world leaders arrive in Glasgow for talks which are pivotal in shaping global action to slash emissions over the next 10 years.

Oxfam’s briefing ‘Forced from Home’ found that people are seven times more likely to be driven from their homes by cyclones, floods and wildfires as they are by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and three times more likely than by conflict.

While no one is immune – in recent weeks wildfires in Australia and floods in Europe have displaced thousands of people – Oxfam’s analysis shows that people in poor countries, who bear the least responsibility for global carbon pollution, are most at risk. Around 80 percent of all people displaced in the last decade live in Asia, home to 60 percent of the world’s population and over a third of the people globally who are living extreme poverty.

Today’s report reinforces the need to slash emissions and increase support to those already impacted by the climate crisis. In September, the Scottish Parliament agreed stronger emission reduction targets, including to reach ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2045 – five years earlier than the rest of the UK. However, under these plans, Scotland will continue contributing to our historic climate debt for the next three decades. Scotland also has a small, but welcome, Climate Justice Fund to support those impacted by the climate crisis.

Jamie Livingstone, Head of Oxfam Scotland said:

“Our governments urgently need to get to grips with a climate crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes.

“The poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price - climate change is forcing people around the globe – hungry farmers in Guatemala, pastoralists in Ethiopia and those hit by cyclones in Asia or Southern Africa – to abandon their homes and face up to an uncertain future.

“In the last year, we’ve seen people taking to the streets in Glasgow and across the globe to demand urgent climate action. If politicians ignore their pleas, more people will die, more people will go hungry and more people will be forced from their homes.”

The unequal impacts of the climate crisis are apparent across the globe. For example, in March 2019 Cyclone Idai displaced 51,000 people in Zimbabwe. The most affected communities live in rural areas of Chimanimani and Chipinge where poor infrastructure and housing were unable to withstand the heavy rains and wind.

Displaced women are particularly vulnerable as they, for example, face high levels of sexual violence. Displaced women are particularly vulnerable as they, for example, face high levels of sexual violence. People in low- and lower-middle income countries such as India, Nigeria and Bolivia are over four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than people in rich countries such as the United States.

Small Island Developing States make up seven of the 10 countries that face the highest risk of internal displacement from extreme weather events. On average nearly five percent of the population of Cuba, Dominica and Tuvalu, were displaced by extreme weather each year in the decade between 2008 and 2018. This is equivalent to more than half the population of Glasgow being displaced in Scotland annually. Small Island Developing States’ per capita emissions are around a third of those in high-income countries

The UN is due to conclude a review of the progress made under the ‘Warsaw Mechanism on Loss and Damage’ at the summit in Madrid and developing countries will be pushing for the establishment of a new fund to help communities recover and rebuild after climate shocks.

Rich donor countries have largely left poor countries to cover the rising costs of extreme weather disasters themselves. New Oxfam analysis shows that economic losses from extreme weather disasters over the last decade were, on average, equivalent to two percent of countries’ national income. That figure is much higher for many developing countries – up to an astonishing 20 percent for Small Island Developing States.

Livingstone said: “Governments can and must make Madrid matter. They must commit to faster, deeper emissions cuts and they must establish a new ‘Loss and Damage’ fund to help poor communities recover from climate disasters,”


For a copy of the report or to arrange an interview with Head of Oxfam Scotland Jamie Livingstone, please contact Alice McNaugher on Amcnaugher1@oxfam.org,uk or +44 (0) 141 285 887 / 07880785159

Notes to editors

The 25th UN Climate Summit takes place in Madrid, Spain from 2 – 13 December 2019

Head of Oxfam Scotland Jamie Livingstone is at the UN Climate Summit in Madrid from 2 December until 13 December and available for interviews

Oxfam’s briefing ‘Forced from home: Climate fuelled displacement’ is available here:  https://oxfam.box.com/s/29yaf91pjuhq4p2o5lgomnvngcpxmm9w

Pictures and testimonies available from:

  • Guatemala where a six-year drought has devastated crops bringing poverty and hunger. With no food and no means of making a living more and more people are making the long and dangerous journey to Mexico or the United States in the hope of finding work and feeding their families:  https://intermon.resourcespace.com/?c=10058&k=6cd9222b26
  • Ethiopia and Sudan where pastoralist communities have been forced to leave their homes and land by years of drought that has decimated crops and livestock. Many now relay on humanitarian aid to survive: https://intermon.resourcespace.com/?c=9953&k=bd1cf20480
  • Fiji, which was devastated by Cyclone Winston, one of the most severe tropical storms ever to hit the Pacific region, in 2016. The category five cyclone destroyed an estimated 24,000 homes and impacted 350,000 people.  The cost of the damage from this single event was estimated to be around one fifth of the countries’ GDP: https://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.au/?c=17931&k=c136a84c4b