May 24, 2018 (BE2C2) — Climate change is one of the main drivers of migration and will be increasingly so. It will even have a more significant role in the displacement of people than armed conflicts, which today cause major refugee crises.
This was the warning sounded by Ovais Sarmad, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), who was in Buenos Aires to participate in a meeting of international representatives and senior Argentine government officials, on May 16 to analyze the impacts of this phenomenon.
“One example I use is that recently there was migration of refugees and migrants in Europe because of the Syrian conflict and other conflicts in Sub-Saharan Africa. That is a big political issue,” Sarmad told IPS.
“But the climate change impact will make one million look like a small number. Because a hundred or four hundred million people live in developing countries in low-lying areas, in cities which are very close to the sea. If sea level rises, then people will have to move.”
(And) ““This movement won’t be just national; people will be moving to other countries. One of the examples is Kiribati, a small island in the Pacific with 100,000 people, that will disappear in a few years time. What will happen with this population?” asked Sarmad in a meeting with four journalists, including IPS.
Can one speak in a strict sense of climate refugees? The international community has not yet validated that definition, but Sarmad believes that the issue must be considered, due to realities such as the sea level rise, increasingly destructive hurricanes or persistent droughts.
“In many countries around the world, farmers are the most affected by droughts and they will move. With their cattle, with their children or whatever… And then… they won’t have many places to go. We have only one planet and they can’t go to space,” said the expert.
In that sense, he considered that the world should be “supportive” and “not close the doors” to those who are displaced due to extreme weather events.
Sarmad was the keynote speaker at the meeting T20 and Climate Change: Planning, Risk and Response Facing the Emergency, organized within the framework of the so-called “Think 20 (T20),” which brings together academic organizations and researchers of the Group of 20 (G20).
The T20 is organized in 10 working groups, one of which deals with climate change and infrastructure for development.