Sheikh Hasina’s stark warning on climate change-induced migration

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday urged the international community to initiate discussions on creation of an appropriate framework to address the needs of the people who got displaced due to extreme weather events caused by climate change.

"We must appreciate that migration could be an effective adaptation strategy, as we focus on enhancing adaptation capacities of affected communities. Hence, relocation and protection of displaced persons need due focus in global discourse to ensure their protection. We need to commence discussions on creation of an appropriate framework to address the needs of people displaced due to climate change," she said.

The Prime Minister made the call while addressing the Action for Survival: Vulnerable Nations COP25 Leaders' Summit at Feria de Madrid (IFEMA) in Madrid, the capital of Spain.

She said it is widely accepted that the gravest effect of climate change may be on human migration. Extreme weather events are already displacing many more people than violent conflicts. Slow-onset events like sea-level rise and desertification get even lower global focus. "We must work towards correcting this imbalance."

Pointing at the leaders of Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), Sheikh Hasina said, "We now have a situation where the most vulnerable countries, which deserve the highest level of priority, are failing to access whatever support that is being realized."

She said creation of a new CVF and V20 Trust Fund and possibility of having a new Special Rapporteur on climate change would be a great success.

Noting that CVF and V-20 are great examples of South-South and Triangular cooperation, she said, "We want to further build on the current accomplishments. The time is now to act as we're at the most important crossroad of human history confronting possibly the gravest global challenge of our time."

She said climate change has now become an existential threat for every country, especially for the climate vulnerable countries like Bangladesh.

With more than 1.1 million Rohingyas from Myanmar causing all sorts of environmental havoc, Bangladesh already has the firsthand experience of the worst kind of environmental calamity, she said.

"We must therefore establish a set of criteria to prioritize vulnerable countries based on their risks, impacts and lack of coping capacities. We also want to keep the climate change support and the regular development finance strictly separate," she added.

Hasina said major emitters show extreme reluctance on mitigation, which may wreck the international climate regime and put the climate vulnerable countries like Bangladesh at the risk of peril. "Hence, we shouldn't hesitate to demand accountability for inaction."

"We're also looking towards the 2020 Climate Adaptation Summit in the Netherlands to strengthen our adaptation efforts. And Bangladesh is ready to take the responsibility of the Presidency of the Forum if the Members kindly agree to honour us with this task," she said.

The Prime Minister said climate change is a stark reality for the world. It has now caused irreversible damage to human life and environment, ecology and natural resources, she said.

Since the Earth Summit in 1992, it has not been able to secure much progress in the reduction of greenhouse gases and their emissions are still on the rise, she said. This trend is now unsustainable for the Earth.

"We, the vulnerable countries, suffer the most due to our limited coping capacities and specific geographical features. We're bearing the brunt of the damage though we made negligible or no contribution to the menace. This constitutes a serious injustice and must be acknowledged by the global community," said the Prime Minister.

Unfortunately, she said, the progress under the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) process is very slow and largely inadequate. There's still hardly any move to support nationally determined adaptation initiatives undertaken especially by our vulnerable countries, the PM added.

Different funds created for different purposes lack availability of the required capital, she pointed out.

"Often direct and easy access to funds and technology along with conditions and criteria seem to favour mostly the countries that already have acquired greater capacities," Hasina told her audience.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, Executive Secretary of UNFCCC Patricia Espinosa and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet Jeria, among others, spoke at the event.

Keep the pressure on Myanmar: PM

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday renewed her call to the world community, including the European countries, for keeping up pressure on Myanmar so that they take their more than one million forcibly-displaced Rohingya people back.

Sheikh Hasina made the appeal during her separate meetings with Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte and President of the European Council Charles Michel at Feria de Madrid on the sidelines of the Climate Change Summit.

"Myanmar is our neighbouring friendly country, they always say they'll take Rohingyas back...they've created the problem and the solution lies with them...they never said they won't take their nationals back, but they've lack of sincerity... please help us in this regard," Hasina was quoted as saying while holding a meeting with her Dutch counterpart.

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen briefed reporters after both the meetings.

The hilly areas of Cox's Bazar are seriously being affected environmentally for giving shelter to more than one million Rohingyas, she said.

The Prime Minister said Rohingyas are cutting down trees in the hilly areas for making their shelters. In those areas elephants used to move around, she added. Sheikh Hasina said the government is trying to relocate the Rohingyas to Bhashan Char temporarily after preparing good facilities for them to give them a risk-free shelter.

To attend the hearing of the ICJ next week, Hasina said, Suu Kyi will be in The Hague. "You should put some pressure on Myanmar and continue it," she added.

The Prime Minister said Bangladesh is thankful to the Netherlands for raising their voice, extending political support and providing emergency aid for more than 1.2 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh.

Holding meeting with President of the European Council Charles Michel, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh is in continuous dialogue with Myanmar. "But the problem is the Rohingyas won't go back unless they got the assurance of having Myanmar citizenship," she said.

When the European Council president questioned about the role of China in this regard, she said China, India and Japan all agree with Bangladesh that the Rohingyas should be repatriated. "Neighbouring countries including Thailand want Rohingyas to go back to their homeland and they're cooperating with us," she said.

Sheikh Hasina said Myanmar should cooperate with Bangladesh as Bangladesh wants a peaceful solution to the crisis, and mentioned Bangladesh's continued cooperation with and connection at every level for a solution to the Rohingya crisis.

"Our general (army chief) will meet them (Myanmar army chief)."

The Prime Minister also said the Rohingyas have cleared all the trees surrounding their living places. "You can help us solve the Rohingya problem," she told the European Commission President.

The Foreign Minister said the Prime Minister agreed to take over the charge of the next Presidency of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) as President of Marshall Islands Hilda Heine proposed her name during the climate conference for taking the responsibility.

In response to the proposal, Sheikh Hasina said she agreed to take over the charge if other leaders of the member countries agree on the proposal, he said.

During the meeting with the Dutch Prime Minister, the Prime Minister elaborated steps of her government to construct embankments and its campaigns on tree plantation involving cross section of people, including party leaders and workers.

She said Bangladesh is not a high carbon-emitting country and it is working on the issue of climate adaptation.

Sheikh Hasina also invited the Dutch Prime Minister to attend the celebrations of the birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman next year which he accepted.

Mark Rutte also invited the Prime Minister to visit the Netherlands to join the Climate Adaptation Summit to be held on October 22 next year. Dr Momen said Mark Rutte extended thanks to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as she agreed on the proposal for assuming the Presidency of the CVF next year.

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