While the delegates at Cancun attended one meeting after another, I attended a side event at the Cancun Mess on climate migration and its impacts. One of the speakers at this event was Greenpeace International’s executive director Kumi Naidoo. This event was organised by the delegation from Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and many small island states stand the risk of  being partially or even totally submerged if sea levels rise due to the rise in global temperature. Millions of people living in these areas will lose their homes and livelihoods. The Sundarbans, an area of mangrove forest in the Bay of Bengal that stretches across both India and Bangladesh’s coastline, is particularly under threat. With little other choice, many survivors will be forced to migrate to neighbouring countries.  This means there will be a lot of people living on a small piece of land, creating problems like food scarcity, land and water shortage.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides the common international framework to address the causes and consequences of climate change, but does not mention climate change induced migrations. This event drew the attention of delegations and the global leaders towards the rights of climate change induced forced migrants demanding a new legal instrument under the protocol in the UNFCCC to ensure social, cultural and economic rights of climate migrants.

There was some significant analysis made on impacts of climate change like the increase in warming and drying in some regions, increase in extreme weather events and sea-level rise. All these will permanently destroy extensive and highly productive low-lying areas: home to millions of people who will have to be relocated permanently.

Mexican President talks afforestation  

Meanwhile, Ismael Marino, one of our volunteers from Greenpeace Mexico, attended an event where Mexican president Felipe Calderon was addressing his citizens. The President talked about the Mexican Initiative Program, the Pro Árbol (Pro Tree) campaign, where the government plants hundreds of trees and takes care of them until they grow into complete mangroves.

Talking about this event Ismael said, “It [the scheme] is like a big joke as the government has been planting eucalyptus trees which consume a lot of water. The government should not be planting species of trees which don’t belong to the natural habitat of Mexico. The program is a good initiative as far as making more carbon cuts is concerned. However, it needs to be implemented more smartly considering the equation of ‘cut one tree and plant one instead’ does not work and we need to conserve the fully grown trees which already exist.”

Afforestation is a good initiative, but care must be taken with every initiative that the solution proposed is sensitive to local conditions.