Written by Euronews

As soon as Fiji, a small Pacific Island nation, spoke about urging developed nations to open up their country for climate refugees, delegates from several developing nations snapped their fingers in the air as a sign of approval.

But not every developing nation is on board with it.  

“Defining climate refugee doesn’t solve the problem,” exclaimed the Thailand delegate during a heated floor debate. “We need to tackle the root cause. We need to tackle climate change.”

The status of climate refugees is one of the topics being discussed in the committee and they are divided on the definition of the term “climate refugee”. Under international law, “refugee” describes people fleeing war or persecution and who have crossed an international border. Nowhere in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees does it define climate refugee.

However, countries like Fiji, a pacific island nation in danger of being underwater in the next hundred years, are calling for a change.

“We recently had to move a village uphill, away from rising water,” said the Fiji delegate. The delegate then implored nations to focus more on quality of ideas instead of quantity.

Delegate from Congo joined in Fiji’s call for better ideas, since many countries were throwing out their own proposals, instead of trying to find unity. “Reality is, certain nation will experience climate change differently,” said Fiji. “But it will affect everyone!”

Nations such as Fiji, Congo and Spain are calling for the committee to defining the term “climate refugee” amend the 1951 Refugee Convention document. That would dramatically impact how international law governs people displaced by climate change.

The committee is split. On the one side, they don’t want to amend their national laws to accommodate potential millions of climate refugees from developing nations. The other side, their livelihood is at stake.

Fiji delegate ended his speech with a stark warning to the committee and to the international community. “Our very existence is at stake!”