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UN Experts Call For Global Climate Deal To Address Human Migration

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Migration experts have stressed the need to incorporate climate-related migration in the forthcoming Paris agreement on global warming.

Citing how one person is displaced by disasters every single second, they raised at United Nations climate talks in Bonn, Germany, that the climate change deal to be agreed by 195 countries in Paris, France, on Nov. 30 is yet to mention displacement and its links to climate change.

Marine Franck, U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) climate change officer, said that climate change negotiations focusing "on targets, on billions" are not enough, and should also pay attention to people.

Climate change negotiators produced a new draft version last Friday, particularly including a mechanism to coordinate efforts for individuals displaced by extreme weather disruption and long-term issues such as rising seas and droughts.

She noted that the French senate had also voted this week for a resolution urging government to include the concerns of the environmentally displaced in the Paris agreement.

Large sections of Syria, for instance, suffered an extreme drought from 2006 to 2011. Climatologists said that this was made worst by climate change, leading to greater poverty and relocation.

Francesco Femia from the Center for Climate and Security said that two million Syrians were displaced by the said drought coupled with the impact of the Assad regime - an internal displacement that potentially added to the social unrest that sparked the civil war in the country.

A separate group including the United States and other developed nations emphasized an existing "loss and damage" plan for better coordinating and discussing displacement and migration, but this would not be integrated in the binding part of the climate deal.

Climate-linked migration should be incorporated in the agreement's opening paragraphs and a section on climate impact adaptation, urged lead scientist Koko Warner of the U.N. University Institute for Environment and Human Security.

"Places that we call home today may not be hospitable in the future," she said of climate-linked migration increasing in the next few years.

The Paris agreement will offer guidance for climate change migration up to the next 40 years.

She cited the migration crisis happening in central and eastern Europe at present - "catching us unprepared," according to her, and requiring governments to put proper measures in place for people to "move safely and with dignity."

Environmental migration expert Mariam Traore Chazalnoel reported that migration preparation and management efforts are already in the pipeline in areas such as Micronesia. She said a recent survey reflected that two-thirds of Micronesia adults are already speaking to their families about "the option to move" as related to climate change.

Chazalnoel's group, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), educates schools and communities about disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, helping them explore the possibility to choose "to not migrate."

Migration that is respectful of people's rights, according to Franck, should be a part of other new global agreements, including the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Photo: Anthony Quintano | Flickr

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