Bangladesh, at UN, urges greater support for ‘climate migrants’

26 September 2009

Participants at December’s climate change talks in Copenhagen must consider measures to provide social, cultural and economic support for “climate migrants” who have to flee their homes and sometimes their entire countries because of global warming, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister told the General Assembly.

In an address to the Assembly’s annual high-level debate, Sheikh Hasina said climate change was already leading to rapid, unplanned urbanization, occupational dislocation and food, water and land insecurity worldwide.

“The affected communities would not only lose their homes, they would also stand to lose their identity, nationality, and their very existence, and in some cases, their countries,” she said.

As a country largely based on the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, and prone to deadly monsoons, Bangladesh is especially vulnerable to climate change.

“River bank erosion, landslides, soil degradation and deforestation are causing millions of climate change refugees,” the Prime Minister said. “They are already all over our thickly populated cities. What is alarming is that a metre-rise in sea level would inundate 18 per cent of our land mass, directly impacting 11 per cent of our people.”

She outlined measures being taken by her Government to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change, such as the dredging of major rivers and the construction of cyclone shelters.

But the Prime Minister emphasized that when the world’s countries gather in Copenhagen in December to try to agree on a pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol ends in 2012, they should pay particular attention to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable nations.

“It is critical therefore [that] the outcome of the conference reflects commitment for assured, adequate, and easily accessible funding for adaptation; and affordable, eco-friendly technology transfer to developing countries, particularly to least developed countries (LDCs).”

Bangladesh, she added, would “make a strong call” for the development of a new legal regime under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Protocol to ensure the “social, cultural and economic rehabilitation of climate-induced displaced migrants.”

The Prime Minister also backed the proposal of the United Kingdom to set up a fund to support the adaptation and mitigation strategies of climate change-affected countries.

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