Climate migrant warning as emissions soar

The world has been told to brace itself for “hundreds of millions” of climate migrants as world carbon emissions returned to pre-COVID levels.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has warned the world is missing its global warming reduction targets and is creating a future migrant crisis of huge proportions in the face of rising anti-migrant feelings.

“The last decade was the hottest on record,” she said. “Indeed, the last five years each set new record highs, each year surpassing the previous one.

“While the early pandemic response caused a temporary drop in carbon pollution, emissions have since returned to pre-COVID levels and climate destruction has continued apace.”

Ms Mohammed warned the world is “way off track” to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.  At just 1°C of warming today, we are witnessing unprecedented climate extremes on every continent she added.

“Climate-related disasters nearly doubled over the last two decades, with the number of major floods more than doubling, and the incidence of major storms growing too,” added Ms Mohammed. “Those who have contributed least to the problem — the poorest and most vulnerable — stand on the frontlines of the climate crisis and bear the impacts disproportionately.  We now face a paradoxical world in which populism and anti-migrant feeling is surging, but in which hundreds upon millions of climate migrants in the near future is a near-certainty.”

She warned investments in adaptation and resilience measures represent a mere 20 per cent of total international climate finance flows.  More action needed to be taken and quickly.

Financing for adaptation and resilience must be delivered at the scale demanded by science and the needs of the most vulnerable. Climate risks and opportunities must be taken into account in all financial and policy decisions and at all levels.

Ms Mohammed added portfolios currently favour disaster relief, and this needs to change.

“We must move from small-scale adaptation finance triggered by catastrophes to proactive, preventive and systematic adaptation support through substantial concessional finance at scale,” she added.  “Public and private finance must also be aligned in this effort.

“Finally, we must ensure that those in most need — small island States, least developed countries and African nations — are assured of simplified and timely access to available resources.”

Ms Mohammed concluded: “Scaling up adaptation and resilience finance will require all financial flows to align with these imperatives — national budgets, national, regional and multilateral development banks, climate funds and private finance.  Implementing innovative financing models such as debt-for-climate and debt-for-adaptation swaps will also be key to these efforts.

“Only then can we level the playing field to ensure investments towards the recovery are all climate-resilient.  And only then will we give everyone an equal chance to build back better, regardless of the storms — both figurative and literal — that will come. We have no time to waste.”