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Angle: Increased migration due to climate change, support for rich countries essential to global response | Reuters

SHARM EL SHEIKH, EGYPT (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Marshall Islands climate change correspondent Tina Stege lives on an atoll 2 meters above sea level and close to the sea. With “the ocean visible on both sides of the island almost everywhere,” there is no escape from sea level rise. Climate change is warming oceans and melting ice around the world.

The atoll where Tina Stege, the Marshall Islands’ special envoy for climate change, lives, is two meters above sea level and close to the sea. A man pushes a cart through floodwaters in Enagoa, Nigeria. FILE PHOTO: October 18, 2022. REUTERS/Tife Owolabi

Saving 60,000 people in the Marshall Islands from sea level rise over the next few years will require tens of billions of dollars to invest in housing and infrastructure construction, but not the money.

At the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) held in Egypt, Stege said: “My country does not have elevated land. If we want to move to elevated land, we have to create it.”

Stege and the millions of people around the world hit hard by sea level rise, droughts, storms and other climate changes who find it difficult to stay at home may eventually have to choose to migrate upwards.

“We shouldn’t be so lazy as to think that people are not commuting in the current situation,” said International Organization for Migration (IOM) director-general Vitorino, who said climate change was already “seriously affecting the human mobility”. he pointed out.

It is nearly impossible to accurately estimate how many people could migrate as the impacts of climate change increase. The scale and timing of climate change shocks are difficult to predict, and whether people migrate depends on a wide range of factors, including the extent of recovery assistance.

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), some 23.7 million people were internally displaced by disasters last year, usually temporarily displaced. Many of them have been associated with extreme weather events.

By 2050, according to the World Bank, an estimated 216 million people could be internally displaced by the impacts of climate change, without serious and swift action to address climate change.

Experts say that much of the climate change-related migration occurs within the country rather than leaving the country. But in small low-lying island nations, inland relocation may not be an option.

It is also becoming difficult to distinguish between refugees in conflict and migrants induced by climate change, said Michael Köhler, interim director-general of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO).

In Africa’s Sahel region, for example, water shortages caused by drought and agricultural bankruptcies have divided families, making it easier for extremist groups to recruit young people to earn money, fueling the conflict, experts say. .

Halting climate change-related migration will require increased efforts and funding to help vulnerable people adapt to change and become more resilient to shocks, says Rabab Fatima, UN Representative on Developing Countries and Small Islands. “There is an urgent need for more funding for adaptation in all these vulnerable countries,” he said. “A global increase in investment in adaptation is essential to saving millions of lives from climate-related disasters,” she said.

Rich countries have pledged $100 billion annually by 2020 to help these countries grow cleanly and adapt to the threat of climate change. However, only some of them have been implemented and this is a problem in the COP27 consultations.

But according to IOM’s Vitorino, in addition to spending on climate change adaptation, investing in better early warning systems and better life-saving techniques such as ‘predictive actions’ can also help curb migration.

Predictive actions are measures such as distributing small amounts of money to households a few days before a disaster is expected to help them prepare.

According to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), 142,000 people received cash transfers for disaster preparedness in 2020, five days before expected floods in Bangladesh. As a result, households are less likely to run out of food during a disaster by a third.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calculates that for every $1 of such assistance implemented, $7 of damage can be avoided.

However, Vitorino stressed that increased efforts to protect people will not prevent all climate-related migration and stressed the need for careful and “safe and orderly” migration plans.

(Journalist Laurie Goering)

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