Climate change is one of the main drivers of migration and will be increasingly so. It will even play a more significant role in generating displacement of people than armed conflicts, which today cause huge refugee crises.
This was warned by the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Ovais Sarmad, who was in Buenos Aires to participate in a meeting of international figures and senior officials of the Argentine government, this Wednesday 16 to analyze the impacts of this phenomenon.
"I give the example of the conflicts in Syria and sub-Saharan Africa, which recently caused a million refugees and migrants to enter Europe, which is a matter of political importance," Sarmad told IPS.
“But“ In many countries of the world, farmers are the most affected by droughts and they will move. With their animals, their families or whatever. And then… they won't have many places to go. The world is one and they cannot go into space, "he added.
Sarmad, an Indian national, is a specialist in trade and financial management, with postgraduate studies in London, who for 27 years worked at the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
He was head of the IOM Director General's Team until last year, when the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, named him as number two of the UNFCCC.
“This movement will not only be national; people will move to other countries. One of the examples is Kiribati, a small island in the Pacific Ocean that has about 100,000 inhabitants and is going to disappear in a few years. What will happen to that population? ”Sarmad wondered in a meeting with four journalists, including IPS.
Can we speak, in the strict sense, of climate refugees? The international community has so far not validated that definition, but Sarmad believes that the issue should be considered, due to realities such as rising sea levels, increasingly destructive hurricanes or persistent droughts.
“In many countries of the world, farmers are the most affected by droughts and will move. The world is one and they cannot go into space ”, commented the specialist.
In that sense, he considered that the world should be "supportive" and "not close the doors" to those who move due to extreme weather events.
The Indian diplomat was the star guest at the Planning, Risk and Responses to the Climate Change Emergency meeting, organized within the framework of the so-called “Think 20 (T20)”, which brings together academic organizations and researchers from the Group of 20 (G20 ).
The T20 is structured in 10 working groups, one of which deals with climate change and infrastructure for development.
Its mission is to make public policy recommendations to the G20, the group of industrialized and emerging countries that encompass 66 percent of the world's population and 85 percent of the world's gross domestic product.
Argentina holds the presidency of the G20 this year, which will conclude at the end of the year with the summit that will bring together the world's main heads of state and government in Buenos Aires.
The issue of climate change is especially controversial in the G20, since last year, during the German presidency, the United States did not adhere to the Climate Action Plan agreed by the rest, which led many to conclude that the G0 had become the Group of 19 + 1.
This country wants to be active before the international community in the battle against climate change, although it did not put the issue as one of the G20's priorities for this year, to avoid conflicts.
The main themes chosen by the government of Mauricio Macri are: The Future of Work, Infrastructure for Development and A Sustainable Food Future.
The Argentine Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Sergio Bergman, acknowledged when participating in the T20 meeting that Argentina needs to fulfill its commitments assumed in the framework of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
This binding agreement that establishes planetary measures to combat climate change was adopted during the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, in December 2015, and considered a historic achievement, until the US administration of Donald Trump abandoned it in 2017.
Argentina needs to keep these commitments, among other issues because it is applying to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
“We want to enter the OECD and for this we have to assume our obligations and take an exam,” said Bergman, who added: “After what happened in Germany last year, the challenge is how do we get the 20 members of the g20 into the final document ”.
Along with Bergman, Defense Minister Oscar Aguad, who in a way was the host, also participated in the T20 meeting because the meeting was held at the National Defense University.
This state institution is in charge of training the military and civilians and climate change is one of its outstanding areas of research.
Sarmad's proposals in Buenos Aires made it clear that the objective of the UNFCCC is for Argentina, as president of the G20, to promote commitments in the field of climate change.
"The G20 must have the political leadership and include in its recommendations this year that the Paris Agreement must be implemented, because if it will not be a nice Agreement, but it will remain on a shelf," he said in the keynote address he gave during the I meet, before a hundred attendees, many of them public officials.
Sarmad said that, despite the efforts of the international community against climate change, there was an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, after having decreased in the previous three years.
The reason, he said, has been an increase in the consumption of fossil fuels.
This was corroborated by another participant in the T20 meeting, Malian Youba Sokona, an energy specialist and vice president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Sokona stressed that behind it is the problem that renewable energies have reduced their price in recent years, but fossils are still cheaper.
“The costs of renewable energy are high not only for developing countries. Even Germany, when it decided to put a brake on nuclear energy, had to turn to coal, "said Sokona, who revealed that the IPCC faces financing problems due to the withdrawal of economic support from the United States.
“It is interesting that we meet at these types of conferences to talk about climate change, but there are many other things we can do. We must act because there is suffering in the world, especially on the part of women and children, who are the most vulnerable populations, ”Sarmad analyzed.
"There is no issue at the international level apart from nuclear safety and proliferation that is more important than climate change," he concluded.
By Daniel Gutman
Edition: Estrella Gutiérrez