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U.S. House Democrats to Unveil Climate Displaced Persons Act

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are planning to introduce a Climate Displaced Persons Act that would see the country welcome at least 50,000 climate migrants per beginning in 2020.

The Huffington Post says the measure, to be introduced by Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), is the first major piece of legislation to protect people displaced by the impacts of climate change.

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“The legislation, a copy of which HuffPost obtained, directs the White House to collect data on people displaced by extreme weather, drought, and sea level rise and submit an annual report to Congress,” the online publication writes, in a post republished by Grist. “It also requires the State Department to work with other federal agencies to create a Global Climate Resilience Strategy that puts global warming at the center of U.S. foreign policy.”

The 21-page House bill parallels a Senate version introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), and “marks an escalation as Democrats start to flesh out what a sweeping federal plan to eliminate emissions and prepare the country for more climate catastrophe would look like.” 

“America will continue to stand tall as a safe haven for immigrants,” Velázquez said in a statement. “This legislation will not only reaffirm our nation’s longstanding role as a home to those fleeing conflict and disasters, but it will also update it to reflect changes to our world brought on by a changing climate.”

While it won’t likely become law as long as Donald Trump is in a position to block it, HuffPost says, “the bill lays the groundwork for how a future administration could deal with what’s already forecast to be among the greatest upheavals global warming will cause.”

Citing data from the non-profit Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre in Switzerland, HuffPost says weather catastrophes have displaced 24 million people per year since 2008. That number could hit 140 million to one billion by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions aren’t brought under control, and “the World Bank estimated last year that climate change effects in just three regions―sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America―could force 143 million people to flee by the middle of the century.”

Yet “little to no legal infrastructure exists to classify and process climate refugees. Last December, leaders from 164 countries formally adopted the U.N. Global Compact for Migration, the first major international document to recognize the role of climate change in causing displacement. But it’s a non-binding and voluntary accord, and the United States, Australia, and several European Union members refused to sign.”

Even so, HuffPost notes that “the exodus is already under way,” within the U.S. and beyond its borders, with drought driving much of the exodus to the treacherous border between the U.S. and Mexico.