By Lian Angela Plass
One of the seldom talked about, but emerging issues in climate change is the number of displaced people it will produce. At the present 2 degree target set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) there will be significant loss of habitable land especially in coastal regions and small island nations. Consequently, in 2005 the United Nations projected that by 2020 there would be 50 million people displaced by climate change. While the precise number remains uncertain, there is no question that migration due to climate change will have huge implications for the global community.
In her keynote speech on the second day of the conference, Marie-Louise Coliero-Preca, the President of the Republic of Malta brought this issue: “Migration is fueled by inequality, water and food insecurity, and climate change. The SDGs address these factors.” But, she continued, “it is up to us to influence how we deal with migration and the policies that countries choose to adopt.”
Ms. Coliero-Preca is no stranger to the social impacts size of global politics. As the former Maltese Minister of the Family and Social Solidarity, the Maltese parliamentary speaker for Social Policy and Health, and an advocate for social equality she has been working toward the creation and implementation of inclusive social policy for 16 arduous years.
Her speech, employing powerful and universal rhetoric, outlined the need for more open international trade and refugee policy frameworks to not only cope with the imminent influx of climate change refugees but also to enhance the function of the global economy.
Using the example of labor deficits in European nations, and alluding heavily to the current Syrian crisis, she elaborated on the potential benefits of free trade and open migration policy such as access to opportunities present exclusively in western society, greater consumer choice, larger tax base, the filling of gaps in the labor force, greater labor market flexibility, and overall economic growth.
She ended her address with an appeal to the congregation and to the youth of the world: “Speak up in favor of human rights and human dignity.”
Lian Angela Plass is a graduate student at Columbia University and a 2015 ICSD Media Fellow.