Ahead of COP28, Senator Markey, Congresswoman Velázquez Announce Legislation to Create Pathway for People Displaced by Climate Change

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Nearly 20 million people every year are displaced by climate-fueled disasters

Legislation would establish a national system of allocating 100,000 visas for people displaced by climate-fueled disasters

Bill Text (PDF)

Washington (November 16, 2023) – Ahead of the 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Clean Air, Climate, and Nuclear Safety, and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-07) announced the reintroduction of the Climate Displaced Persons Act (CDPA) to enact a national strategy that would provide a more equitable immigration pathway to the United States for people displaced by climate change and critical support for people affected by climate disasters internationally. The legislation would also create a Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy to protect people before displacement strikes. 

Currently, people displaced by climate change lack formal protections under immigration law. The legislation would create a new pathway to remedy this, and ensure agencies collect and maintain data on climate displacement. The CDPA would direct the Department of State to develop a list of 100 most climate-vulnerable countries by collecting and reporting data on visa recipients’ demographics to support an equitable response to displacement driven by the climate crisis. 

“We are already seeing the impacts of the climate crisis—from stronger storms to deadlier wildfires to longer droughts,” said Senator Markey. “The Climate Displaced Persons Act creates new protections and pathways for people that bear the brunt of climate change’s catastrophic impacts while doing the least to cause the crisis. We must help people both stay in their homes, as well as provide people who have lost their homes, communities or neighborhoods from climate-fueled disasters—with support and a second chance at life.” 

“In order to fight climate change, we must all be in this together,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “However, we must not only find solutions around climate equity and climate justice but recognize the need for security assistance and resettlement opportunities for climate-displaced persons. I’m proud to introduce this comprehensive legislation to protect the human rights of climate-displaced persons and establish a national strategy to address climate displacement.” 

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.  

Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Specifically, the legislation to address climate displacement would: 

  • create a U.S. resettlement pathway for climate-displaced persons, 

  • establish a global climate change resilience strategy to guide U.S. government policy and programming, 
  • require agencies to collect data on who climate visas are awarded to and use this data to more equitably allocate visas in subsequent years, 
  • create a government-wide Coordinator for Climate Resilience position, and 
  • provide training for Foreign Service Officers and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officers in climate change resilience. 

The CDPA is endorsed by 350.org; ActionAid USA; Alight; American Jewish World Service; Church World Service; Climate Refugees; Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC); HIAS; International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP); International Rescue Committee; Rainbow Railroad; Refugees International; Stand.earth; Taproot Earth; U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants; Zero Hour; 198 methods; Alianza Americas; Animals Are Sentient Beings Inc; Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC); CASA; Center for Biological Diversity; Center for Gender & Refugee Studies; Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN); Climate Action California; Climate Critical; Communities United for Status & Protection (CUSP); Earth Ethics, Inc.; Earthworks; ecoAmerica; Empowering Pacific Islander Communities; Endangered Species Coalition; Environmental Grantmakers Association; Foreign Policy for America; Friends Committee on National Legislation; Friends of the Earth US; GreenLatinos; Greenpeace USA; Haitian Bridge Alliance; Human Rights First; Jesuit Refugee Service/USA; Justice in Motion; Justice Is Global; League of Conservation Voters; Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; National Employment Law Project; National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (NNIRR); National Partnership for New Americans; Nuclear Information and Resource Service; Oxfam America; Presente.org; Refugees International; RefugePoint; Sunrise Movement; The People’s Justice Council; Union of Concerned Scientists; Women’s Refugee Commission; 350Hawaii; Alaska Wilderness League; Alaska Wilderness League Action; Arkansas United; CCAN Action Fund; CHIRLA – Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights; Climate Action Rhode Island-350; Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition; Common Ground Rising; Don’t Waste Arizona; Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants – LORI; Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico; Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition; Michigan Immigrant Rights Center; Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light; New Mexico Conference of Churches; New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light; New York Immigration Coalition; North Carolina Council of Churches; North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light; Promise Arizona; Rise Up WV; Somos Un Pueblo Unido; Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition; Terra Advocati; Texas Impact/Texas Interfaith Power & Light; The Advocates for Human Rights; Turtle Island Restoration Network; United African Organization; Vote Climate; Wind of the Spirit Immigrant Resource Center; 350 Conejo / San Fernando Valley; 350PDX; Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago; Citizens Caring for the Future; Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services Inc; DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving; First Congregational United Church of Christ; International Institute of New England; Louisiana Organization for Refugees and Immigrants; MoveOn.org Hoboken; Newark Water Coalition; Occupy Bergen County; and Unite North Metro Denver. 

“The Climate Displaced Persons Act recognizes that the United States has been both a primary cause and a beneficiary of the climate crisis because of its leading role in the global order, which means it has a duty to prepare for and welcome in climate migrants. We have also failed poor, Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities within the U.S. who are disproportionately impacted by climate disasters. We need a greater transformational shift in the way global borders are governed and how we treat poor, Black and Brown and Indigenous communities at home, and this bill is a welcome shift in the right direction,” said Kendall Dix, National Policy Director of Taproot Earth.  

“The Climate Displaced Persons Act is a critical piece of legislation to protect the rights, dignity, and safety of those forced to leave their homes due to the accelerating climate crisis, while bolstering our nation’s commitment to global climate resilience. People are already on the move due to climate change and it is time that U.S. policy reflect this reality and offer those displaced a pathway to migrate safely and with dignity,” said Nicole Melaku, Executive Director of the National Partnership for New Americans.

“JRS/USA supports this legislation as an important step toward recognizing the displacement needs and human cost of climate change and in demonstrating global leadership in welcoming those forced to flee their homes,” said Giulia McPherson, Vice President of Advocacy at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA.  

“While the vast majority of people forced to leave their homes due to climate-related disasters are displaced internally, those who are forced to flee their countries face a stunning dearth of safe migration options. The Climate Displaced Persons Act is a crucial opportunity for the United States to lead by example in creating migration pathways for vulnerable and marginalized people pushed to leave their countries by the adverse impacts of climate change,” said Eleanor Acer, Senior Director of Refugee Protection at Human Rights First.     

“With the protection needs of the increasing number of people displaced by climate-related environmental disasters, it is clear that a new humanitarian pathway is needed under law. The Climate Displaced Persons Act would make the United States an innovator and a leader in responding to the human rights implications of climate-related events. The CDPA extends protections to marginalized populations in an equitable matter, boosts data monitoring of climate-related displacement, and improves government coordination on climate change resilience,” said Eskinder Negash, President and CEO of U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants.  

“Today, almost every displacement crisis Refugees International covers globally has a significant climate aspect, from hurricanes in Guatemala and devastating cyclones in Mozambique, to record flooding in Bangladesh and Pakistan. The Climate Displaced Persons Act recognizes that protection and pathways for climate-displaced people who have crossed borders are needed alongside resources to prepare and adapt to the effects of climate change where people are. Refugees International is proud to support this much-needed legislation,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, President of Refugees International.      

“As we have heard firsthand from affected populations, climate change is disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable and oppressed people on the planet, including forcibly displacing millions from their homes. Knowing its historic responsibilities, the United States has failed to provide adequate climate adaptation support to help people stay, while failing to adequately protect those at its own borders. Senator Markey’s leadership on the Climate Displaced Persons Act is a crucial and welcome opportunity for the US to demonstrate its commitment to regional and global partners on climate action and the protection of displaced persons when such cooperation is urgently needed,” said Amali Tower, Founder and Executive Director of Climate Refugees.

“The Climate Displaced Persons Act is a great step toward the United States’ commitment to address harm caused and move toward compassion and justice in the face of environmental upheaval. By supporting this crucial legislation, we affirm our shared responsibility to provide refuge and aid to those displaced by climate change, fostering a world where empathy transcends borders and humanity prevails over adversity. Climate change, an unyielding force, has become the silent architect of human migration, reshaping destinies and redrawing borders. We thank the United States Congress for taking into account some of the root causes of countless displaced people throughout around the world when assessing migration related policies,” said Guerline Jozef, Executive Director at Haitian Bridge Alliance.  

“Our work towards a safe climate and future for all is rooted in justice, which means it must center the lives, safety, and wellbeing of people most impacted by climate change. As climate-related disasters intensify, we know that more and more people, particularly in the Global South, will be displaced as their homes are rendered uninhabitable. The U.S. disproportionately causes and exacerbates climate change, yet, as the CDPA states, ‘our domestic [and] international migration policies do not reflect the realities of climate-related displacement.’ 350.org calls on the U.S. to enact the CDPA and welcome the ‘shared responsibility of climate change adaptation, global disaster risk reduction, & resiliency building,’” said Jeff Ordower, North America Director at 350.org.  

“Even though the United States has contributed the most to the climate crisis, it is countries in the Global South that bear the brunt of climate change. The Climate Displaced Persons Act recognizes the US’s role in making other nations and communities more vulnerable to climate impacts, and our responsibility to support those communities to adapt in place or through migration. As we head into the global climate talks at COP28, we applaud the reintroduction of the CDPA and urge Congress and the White House to take meaningful action to support and welcome climate-displaced people,” said Tefere Gebre, Chief Program Officer of Greenpeace USA.  

“The Climate Displaced Persons Act not only addresses an underappreciated but critical way in which climate change is threatening human security, but also spotlights the need to tackle climate change as a cross-cutting and multi-dimensional issue. Climate change is impacting every foreign and domestic policy challenge we’re facing. FP4A is proud to support this important first step in tackling climate-induced displacement and ensuring that humanitarian and immigration frameworks are set up to address it,” said Andrew Albertson, Executive Director of Foreign Policy for America.  
  

“As the threats posed by climate change evolve, so too must our response to assisting refugees fleeing flooding, wildfires and extreme heat. We applaud Senator Markey for reintroducing the Climate Displaced Persons Act, and look forward to joining him in advocating for a just, equitable refugee resettlement system that recognizes and addresses the global challenges brought on by climate change,” said Liz Sweet, Exeuctive Director at Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition.  
  

“Climate change is no longer a distant threat. It has emerged as destructive a force as war, violence, and persecution. As the largest historical emitter of carbon pollution, the U.S. must take greater responsibility for protecting those impacted by climate displacement. This legislation is the first of its kind and recognizes the urgent humanitarian need for resettlement of climate-displaced persons. We commend Senator Markey for this forward-thinking bill that addresses both long-term climate resiliency strategies, as well as the immediate needs of those already displaced by the climate crisis,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, President & CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. 

In March, Senator Markey and Representative Grace Meng (NY-06) reintroduced the New Deal for New Americans Act, legislation to promote the inclusion of immigrants and refugees in the United States. In April 2022, Senator Markey, along with Representatives Zoe Lofgren (CA-19) and Joe Neguse (CO-02), reintroduced the bicameral Guaranteed Refugee Admission Ceiling Enhancement (GRACE) Act to re-establish the U.S.’s commitment to welcoming refugees.  

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