We have a chapter in a new book Organizational Perspectives on Environmental Migration. The book is a collection of chapters exploring how organisations have responded to migration and displacement linked to environmental change. Academics and practitioners explore how environmental migration has shaped the work of their organizations and projects. The book is edited by François Gemenne and Kerstin Rosenow-Williams.
Our chapter looks specifically at our campaigning and advocacy work. The chapter looks at how green and climate change campaign groups have engaged with the issues. It make several key points
- Different parts of the green movement have created very different ‘stories’ about migration linked to climate change. Different groups have constructed different ideas of who and what environmental migrants are.
- Some see them as a threat and security risk. Others have painted them as desperate people in need of pity and humanitarian assistance. Few have explored the full spectrum of human movement that might be created by climate change, or the wishes and opinions of affected communities.
- Climate change organizations often highlight climate linked migration as a way of galvanising public support for policies to reduce carbon emissions, however this has generally not be effective.
- Environmental organizations have sometime allied themselves with unusual groups – such as military think tanks when claiming that migration linked to climate change could be a new driver for armed violence.
- This has also created a tension between climate and refugee / migrant civil society groups. With the refugee and migrant groups seeing the climate organizations seeing green groups as painting vulnerable people as a threat.
However, we conclude that there is great potential for climate organizations and refugee and migrant NGOs to work together on areas of shared interest. Especially around climate policy and humane immigration and refugee policy. However this must be built up gradually on a shared understanding of the reality of migration linked to climate change, and its complexity.
Alex Randall is the project manager of the Climate Change and Migration Coalition. He is author of a number of the Coalition’s reports, as well as numerous blogs and comment pieces.