On 17th October, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives highlighted this risk, convening a cabinet meeting with his 11 ministers 4 metres below sea level. Such a stunt underlines the plight facing this and many other low-lying countries around the world if sea levels continue to rise.
Between 500 and 600 million people – nearly 10% of the world’s population – are at risk of being displaced by climate change. In Bangladesh alone, 17% of land is at risk from climate change. Experts predict that 90 million people – equivalent to the population of Germany – will become climate refugees, losing their homes and livelihoods in the process, unless something is done now.
But this is not a developing country problem. Take the Netherlands, for example. Approximately 27% of the country is below sea level. Any further increase will put more land, people and livelihoods at risk. Where do we draw the line?
Today heads of government meet in Brussels at the European Council to discuss a short-term climate finance package designed to kick-start progress towards a new climate deal. But this is being treated by the Europeans as an opportunity to fix their figures, as the vast majority of funds are expected to come from existing aid budgets.
In order to be seen as a true leader in the climate change talks, the EU needs to put new money on the table and avoid plundering existing aid budgets. This money has already been committed to helping the world’s poor; people who are not responsible for climate change.