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How a Climate Treaty Can Solve Future Refugee Crisis

15/09/2015 10:24 BST | Updated 14/09/2016 10:12 BST

Right after the government of Iceland announced to accept only 50 refugees in 2015, more than 15,000 Icelanders offered on Facebook to take them in their own houses this week. If Iceland would have as many inhabitants as the U.K. the number would be nearly 300.000.

The number of refugees coming to Europe this year is the highest on record. But 2015 will also be the hottest year on record and the Europeans have to ask themselves one questions: Will the number of refugees go up even more when climate change goes beyond 2 degrees? And are they ready for that?

In his State of the Union speech to the European Parliament, even European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker said this week that an "ambitious, robust and binding" climate treaty is needed to prevent another refugee crisis.

Across Europe people showed great solidarity with the refugees coming to Europe. In Germany thousands of people welcomed refugees at Munich mainstation. There were more people volunteering to help than needed.

But at the same time political leaders don't show the same compassion: David Cameroon stated to take only 4.000 refugees from Syria this year. There are about 9 million Syrian Fugitives right now. And the people in Great Britain have to ask themselves: Are ready for a even higher number of climate refugees? Will they show the same solidarity as the people in Iceland?

Already in 2008 Srgjan Kerim, president of the United Nations General Assembly, warned global warming could cause up to 200 million refugees worldwide. Droughts, rising sea levels and super-storms are just some examples how climate change curtails people from their livelihoods.

But climate change might have even more threatening consequences: Just recently a research team from Columbia University and UCLA made climate change partly responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Right before the outbreak of the civil war Syria faced the longest and hardest drought on record. This drought did not solely cause the civil war, but it worked as a conflict-catalyst.

"Climate change is one the root causes of a new migration phenomenon," said Juncker in his speech in Strasbourg this Thursday. Juncker therefore called for a strong climate treaty at climate conference in Paris (COP21) by the end of this year. The COP21 meeting is expected to come up with a climate treaty with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

But can a climate treaty really solve a future refugee crisis? A strong climate treaty can at least mitigate it. In the 21st century climate protection is the most effective measure to spare people the suffering of flight.

But a climate deal could do even more: Already four years ago world leaders decided in Durban, South Africa, to provide money to deal with the loss and damage caused by climate change. Up to this point this was mainly understood as support countries who suffered from climate change. But it could also be used to support those countries who are willing to welcome climate refugees.

This might appear odd to some. But as long as political leaders are not willing to take refugees a humanitarian refugee policy needs incentives. There are less than 100 days left until the climate conference in Paris. Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel has taken several steps to push a climate treaty. David Cameroon should use the remaining time to do the same.