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Thursday, 24 September 2015

Climate Change and Refugees

Issue

  • by 2050 about 20 cr people will be climate exiles

  • United Nations Refugee Convention, which offers protection only for those who have been forced to leave their country owing to “well-grounded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.”

Examples
  • People of atoll nations in the Pacific such as Tuvalu or the Maldives in the Indian Ocean; With an elevation of only a few metres above sea level, will suffer the worst effects of storms and flooding and may be partly or entirely submerged by even a couple of metres of SLR. 
  • Poor nations will suffer most though their own contributions to GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are relatively trivial
    • It is no surprise then that Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has called for global action to limit warming to 1.5°C, as opposed to the general focus on a 2°C limit. 
  • In a grim reminder of reality, however, the World Bank in its report “Turn Down the Heat” says that without action, we could be seeing warming by 4°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • Low-lying delta regions of the world such as those of the Irrawaddy and the Ganges-Brahmaputra are also vulnerable to the effects of SLR. 
  • More than a tenth of humanity resides in vulnerable regions of the world that are within 10 metres of today’s sea level, also known as Low Elevation Coastal Zones (LECZ). Close to half of Bangladesh lies in the LECZ and these areas will be severely affected by rising seas.
Solution
  • Anticipating these changes with rising temperature, it is important that we prepare to address these issues instead of building fortress-like nations. Regional agreements, joint action, training and skills, sharing of knowledge, technologies, lessons from successes and failures to adapt should all be part of a regional focus in preparing for SLR. Labour agreements are especially important and should be combined with skill building and training in advance of migration.
  • Loss and damage (L&D)
    • L&D tries to capture these types of inability to cope with the effects of warming. 
    • This is distinct from mitigation, or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and adaptation, or finding ways to live in a warmer world. 
    • At COP19 of the UNFCCC, held in Warsaw in 2013, all parties agreed to set up a new mechanism on L&D. 
    • The issue is important because even after GHG emissions are reduced and communities adapt to climate change, there would still be loss and damage to people, livelihoods and infrastructure as a result of their inability to cope with climate change. Loss generally refers to the complete forfeiture of items like land, ecosystems, or of human lives, while damage refers to the harm to infrastructure and property that could be repaired. The term includes both economic and non-economic losses.
    • Developing countries “are fighting tooth and nail to ensure L&D figures in the core agreement at Paris
    • The text of the recently concluded meeting of Like Minded Developing Countries in Delhi states that the issues for the Paris COP are “mitigation, adaptation, finance, capacity building, technology development and transfer, transparency of action and support as well as loss and damage.” Acknowledging and acting on these issues would help prevent the kind of crisis we are now seeing in Europe in future as a result of climate change.

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