Refugee Environmental Protection Fund

The Challenge

Climate change and environmental crises such as deforestation are critical problems in refugee situations. In 2020, UNHCR conducted the first estimate of deforestation impacts in refugee situations, estimating that 20-25 million trees are cut down in and around refugee settlements each year, 90% of which are cut down due to the urgent need for cooking fuel. 

This results in large-scale environmental and social devastation. The resulting environmental problems include soil erosion, landslides, and desertification, which threaten safe living conditions and livelihoods for refugees. As the wood collection perimeter widens with deforestation, women and children must travel further to collect wood, putting them at increased risk of sexual- and gender-based violence. Environmental degradation also heightens the risk of conflict between refugees and hosts. 


The Solution

The REP Fund would help address these complex issues by creating an innovative and sustainable financing mechanism to invest in strengthening and scaling up reforestation and clean-cooking programs in climate-vulnerable refugee-hosting communities worldwide. 

The carbon impact of these programs would be registered and verified to generate the first-ever refugee-generated carbon credits. The sale of these credits would help replenish the Fund, allowing it to re-invest in new reforestation and clean cooking programs, making the Fund more financially and operationally sustainable over time. The Fund’s environmental programs would in addition generate green jobs for refugees and host communities.  


Enabling Environmental and Social Impact at Scale 


Restoration of green cover, CO2 sequestration, and lowered risk of landslides and other local environmental risks from deforestation. 


Clean cooking solutions for refugee and host community families, leading to greater peace and security. 


‘Green jobs’ created in reforestation and clean cooking supply chains in under-developed areas in developing countries. 


Health improvements from reduced cooking smoke inhalation, primarily by women and girls, and reduced risk of gender-based violence when collecting firewood. 


The Refugee Environmental Protection Fund is a flagship initiative under UNHCR’s Strategic Framework for Climate Action, which directs UNHCR’s response to the growing, global climate emergency.