Tag Archives: climate change

Paris – displacement and migration. What happens next?

(This is our initial reaction. We will be publishing reaction from various experts later this week.)

What does it actually say?

The outcome of the Paris negotiations creates a “task force” whose job will be to “develop recommendations for integrated approaches to avert, minimize and address displacement related to the adverse impacts of climate change”

What happens next?

More negotiations. Who is on the task force? Who leads it? What can and can’t it do? This will all have to be developed and agreed at future talks.

However, here are a few key points we feel should shape the task force:

  • It should be lead by countries most vulnerable to displacement linked to climate change.
  • Within the leadership of those countries, there should be a strong role for civil society groups who are already working with migrants and displacees.
  • The priorities of people who move (rather than other vested interests) must shape the remit and priorities of the task-force.

Is it everything we could have hoped for?

That depends on what you were hoping for. Two points seem clear:

  • Before Paris there was no agreement at all, let alone anything that mentioned displacement or migration linked to climate change. Now there is an agreement between nearly 200 countries to tackle climate change, and included in that agreement is a commitment to address displacement linked to climate impacts.
  • On the other hand the text of the final deal is not as ambitious as many had hoped. This applies to the text of migration and displacement too. Because of these more ambitious previous drafts, it is also the case that the Paris outcome is not as ambitious as it could have been when it comes to migration or displacement.

Whether you feel optimistic or defeated by this will mainly depend on what you thought might happen.

What don’t we know?

Several previous drafts of the document referred to displacement and migration. Or even to displacement, migration and relocation. It’s not entirely clear why the final draft only talks about displacement and what the implications of this might be. However, it could narrow the remit of the task force to only looking at instances where people are very clearly forced to move by climate-linked disasters. This could exclude work exploring people whose movement appears more like migration, or work looking at migration as a way of adapting to climate impacts. Having said that, the remit of the task force is left open enough that it could also include these issues. We simply don’t know yet.

What does it all mean?

Obviously it doesn’t mean an end to displacement caused by climate impacts. It could mean the start of a process that does any number of things that might help people who move due to climate change. Exactly what those things are is not spelled out in the agreement. No doubt states, international agencies and civil society groups are formulating their ideas of what they want, and how to pursue those through the new task force. The actual shape of this task force and what it does will be thrashed out over the next few years.

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.

Image: Adapted from David Stanley (CC BY 2.0) from Flickr.

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Podcast. Expert view: Walter Kälin on climate and migration at the negotiations in Paris

We interviewed climate and migration expert Walter Kälin. The key topic of our conversation was how this issue might (or might not) be addressed at the climate change negotiations.

Music: Cylinders by Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons (CC BY 4.0)
Image: NASA Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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.

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PODCAST: how can we protect people who migrate as a way of adapting to climate change?

One of the most talked about topics in the field of climate and migration is the idea of migration as adaptation. In this podcast we argue that for many people migration may be their most viable way of adapting. However we also argue that this can open up a new set of risks for migrants including exploitation in new work places. If migration is truely to become an empowering way for people to adapt, states must act to protect the welfare of people who move.

This podcast is roughly based on a presentation we made at the recent IOM consultations in Geneva.

Key points made in the podcast:

  • Migration is increasingly becoming a way that some communities adapt to climate change impacts. Regardless of the policy debate, people are already using migration as a coping strategy.
  • We argued that there are several measures that could enable more people to use migration as a way of adapting to a changing climate. Key among these is education in rural areas. This could enable people to leave badly hit agricultural areas and seek work in other locations.
  • We also pointed to several challenges that the idea of migration as adaptation presents. We organised these roughly into issues faced by sending communities and issues faced by migrants.
  • For example when people leave a household, this can move important responsibilities – such as child care – onto other household members. This could result in older members of the household having to care for children. Or children bearing more responsibility for younger children, which could affect their education.
  • We therefore made the case that as migration as adaptation becomes a matter of policy, projects must not ignore the people who are left behind.
  • We further made the case that people who move as an adaptive response to climate change may not face fundamentally different challenges to other kinds of migrants. For example as people move from rural areas to cities, they may face issues such as poor housing, exploitation by employers and poor access to services.
  • Again, we made the case that as migration as adaptation become a matter of policy – rather than an ad-hoc coping strategy – additional efforts must be made to combat the challenges faced by migrants moving into cities.

Image: Rakib Hasan Sumon, Creative Commons – (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) Railway station in Dhaka, Bangldesh. flic.kr/p/kwVF8e

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.

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New book – how organizations deal with climate & migration

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.

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Image: 350 .org / Moth Dust – www.mothdust.net. From Flickr. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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Podcast: The Pacific – migrating to adapt to climate change

People in the Pacific are increasingly using migration as a way of protecting their livelihoods in the face of climate change. At the moment many are using temporary migration to help their communities adapt. But what happens when climate change means people have to move permanently? And what can be done to protect the rights of people who move? We interview Sophia Kagan who works with the International Labor Organisation about their work on migration and climate change in the Pacific.


Credits:

Music: Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons – bit.ly/1GbjnOG. Image: Luigi Guarino, Creative Commons bit.ly/1Mw92hJ

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.

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Not the end for displacement at the Paris climate talks

This week many people have been worried that any discussion of displacement and migration might be gone from the Paris climate change talks.

Over the past few months a draft agreement has been hammered out in a series of smaller meetings. World leaders will then meet in Paris to negotiate on the final version. Of course leaders and their civil servants may radically alter the draft agreement over the two weeks of negotiations. But the draft of the agreement they start with is still vitally important.

There have been several versions of this draft text over the past year. It has changed after each interim meeting as states try to agree reach agreement. But if you look back at any of them you’ll find this paragraph:

Provisions for establishing a climate change displacement coordination facility that:

  • Provides support for emergency relief;
  • Assists in providing organized migration and planned relocation;
  • Undertakes compensation measures.

This paragraph has gone from the latest version of the text. This lead to many fearing that the issue of climate linked displacement was gone from the Paris climate negotiations. Clearly it is not good that this paragraph no longer forms part of the agreement states will begin negotiating in Paris. In fact a huge amount of specific detail has been removed between the current draft and the previous draft. The drafts produced in February and June were over 80 pages long. The current draft is 20 pages. Getting the draft agreement down to roughly this size is a vital part of producing an agreement that stands a chance of success.

However we should not see the paragraph’s removal as a mere formality. The paragraph on displacement was supported by many of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It was supported by many of the poorest countries, who are likely to suffer the consequences unchecked climate change. For many of these countries climate-linked displacement is a very real problem. Wealthier or high emitting countries possibly saw the paragraph as creating a number of obligations. Firstly a financial obligation, to assist during disasters. Secondly, the beginnings of an obligation to allow entry into their countries for people forced to move by climate impacts.

However this is short sighted of states that have pushed for the removal of the displacement paragraph. The paragraph calls for coordination and organisation. The hope of the paragraph was that human movement linked to climate change might happen in an organised way, rather than in a chaotic and disordered way. If we’ve learned anything in Europe over past few months it that when displacement happens, it is far better for governments to be coordinated and organised. Chaos benefits no one.

I asked Koko Warner – who has been deeply involved in the the UN process for many years –  about the missing  paragraph. Her argument is that we should not see this as the end of the line. There are still a number of reasons to be hopeful about the presence of migration and displacement in the Paris talks. Removing specific detail doesn’t necessarily mean that the proposals can’t be reintroduced. It may be that a state will attempt to re-insert the deleted paragraph during the negotiations in Paris. Walter Kalin –  a leading humanitarian and international law expert – shared a similar reflection. A paragraph’s deletion is not the end, if there is broad enough support it can be reintroduced at a later stage.

But we must begin to ask: what happens if the paragraph is not in the agreement?

The absence of this paragraph from the final agreement doesn’t prevent states reaching agreement on the climate linked displacement in the future. The absence of the displacement paragraph means there is more space for states to drag their feet, or object entirely. But this will be the case with many aspects of the agreement. Any global agreement amounting to only a few tens of pages will inevitably create hundreds of areas that require states to meet again and negotiate more detailed plans. In the absence of the displacement paragraph we can hope that the Paris talks lay the groundwork for future coordination between states on displacement linked to climate change – even if the final text itself does not contain the concrete proposals for how this can happen.

The Paris climate talks are not the only show in town when it comes to climate linked displacement and migration. The issue of human movement linked to climate change touches on so many different areas of international cooperation that trying to address the issue in one agreement may not work.

Here are just a few international agreement that have a bearing on migration and displacement linked to climate change:

  • This year states agreed the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction. The Framework outlines how states will cooperate to reduce the impact of disasters. The agreement “contains important language on displacement linked to climate change.
  • The Nansen Initiative is a state led process currently creating a new framework protecting people displaced across borders by disasters, including the impacts of climate change.
  • The vast majority of climate linked displacement will take place within countries. People will not cross international borders. They should be protected by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. There is work to be done making sure states properly adhere to these principal during episodes of displacement.

These international agreements do not mean we can be complacent about Paris. Rather, they show us that this year’s climate negotiations are not the only chance for creating policies that will protect people at risk of displacement due to the impacts of climate change.

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.

Image: Sean X Liu (CC BY-SA 2.0) from Flickr.

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Video / presentation: climate change and the refugee crisis

The unfolding refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East has left many people asking whether the situation is related to climate change. Several media reports have drawn connections between climate change and the onset of conflict in Syria.

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.

Images: Chrisser (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) from Flcikr

Jey OH photographie from Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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Briefing Q&A: climate change and the refugee crisis

Watch a video version of this briefing

The unfolding refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East has left many people asking whether the situation is related to climate change. Several media reports have drawn connections between climate change and the current crisis, and predicted that similar crises might unfold more often in the future as the planet warms. As one of the world’s only organisations dedicated to the issue, we have produced this briefing which explores the relationship between climate change and human movement. It aims to set climate change in context along with the many other drivers of human movement.

 

What is the relationship between climate change and human movement?

Natural disasters across the world displaced 22 million people in 2014. Most of the displacement was created by weather related disasters. There are important connections between climate change and the movement of people.

When people are forced to move by the impacts of climate change, they usually move internally rather than across international borders.

In response to sudden disasters such as floods and typhoons, which are increasingly exacerbated by climate change, people often move a short distance to the nearest place of safety within their own country, and often return after the disaster during reconstruction.

“The water came at night and we didn’t have time to save our belongings; we had to chose whether to save our children and ourselves or our property and assets, so we chose to save our kids. We left everything and ran to save our lives.”
Unnamed survivor of the 2010 floods (World Food Programme)

In response to slowly unfolding climate change impacts such as droughts, people often move to find alternative work as their livelihoods are eroded. People usually move within their own country rather than crossing international borders. As agricultural livelihoods are degraded, people often move from rural to urban areas where alternative work is available. Rather than entire families moving together, one or two individuals will move at a time.

In some cases, both sudden and slowly unfolding weather-related disasters can create movement across borders. However, this is usually only the case when several other forces are at play. Cross border migration is more likely to happen when a climate linked disaster is combined with other political factors such as conflict or persecution.

“And since there was the war, we did not receive any support from the government. Therefore, there are combined factors that made us suffer: droughts and war. If war did not exist, then we might have been able to stay, but now that the land is looted, there is no way for us to claim it.”
Somali farmer, Nakiavale Settlement, Uganda (UNHCR / UNU)

In the future, climate change is most likely to create patterns of migration and displacement that follow these existing patterns. There have been a number of media reports suggesting that climate change might create future crises like the one currently taking place in Europe and the Middle East.

However it is clear that most future climate-linked migration is likely to be internal and short distance rather than across continents.


podcast_iconPodcast: understanding slow and rapid on set disasters. Listen to our podcast exploring testimonies from people moving due to climate linked events.


report_iconMoving Stories: testimonies from people who in the context of climate change. Testimonies and analysis exploring the links between climate and migration.


report_iconMyth buster: climate change, migration and displacement. What we know and what we don’t know about the links between climate and migration


 

Are any of the refugees entering Europe fleeing the impacts of climate change?

Whilst climate change is increasingly a driver of internal displacement, most of the people currently entering Europe are fleeing the conflict in Syria. Others are fleeing from conflict and human rights abuses in other countries such as Afghanistan and Eritrea. However some research suggests a connection between climate change and the drought that immediately preceded the conflict in Syria. The main driver behind recent increases in the numbers of people fleeing relates to the worsening of the violence in Syria, and the deteriorating situation in many of the refugee camps along the Syrian border.


analysis2Climate change and the situation in the Mediterranean​. Our analysis explores the key drivers behind the increased number of people crossing the Med


analysis2 Climate change and the refugee situation in Calais​. This analysis examines claims in the media that there is a climate dimension the refugee situation in Calais


 

Was the war in Syria caused by drought and the impacts of climate change?

The causes of the four-year conflict in Syria are primarily political. Key among these was the attempt in 2011 to overthrow the Assad regime, which subsequently descended into an ongoing civil war. Some recent research suggested that a prolonged drought just before the 2011 uprising may have been an important factor, but it should be seen as only one contributing factor.


infographic_icon

Infographic: Understanding the connections between climate and conflict This infographic explores and critiques the possible links


analysis2

Analysis: Climate change and the Syria conflict Researchers have claimed an important drought. We examine the findings in detail.


analysis2

Analysis: Evidence linking climate change and armed violence Academics currently disagree on the role of climate change and conflict. Find out why.


analysis2

Analysis: Climate change, terrorism and the rise of ISIS. Media reports have pointed to climate change as a driver of terrorism. We examine the claims.


 

How should we respond?

We support a series of legal and political responses that are designed to support and protect people who might be displaced by climate impacts, or who may want to move as a way of adapting to climate change. The need to create safe and legal routes for people to move are at the heart of these responses. This applies to both the current European situation and future displacement and migration that might occur in response to climate change.

  1. New international initiatives allowing people to move after disasters. The Nansen Initiative proposes creating a new ‘protection agenda’ in which states would agree to allow people to cross international borders after natural disasters. The agreement which is currently being developed represents the most promising way of allowing people to move legally and safely after disasters – including disasters that are linked to climate change.
  2. Migration as Adaptation to climate change. In the face of slowly unfolding climate change impacts, people may need to migrate as a way of adapting to climate change. There are a great deal of international negotiations regarding Adaptation, including the upcoming UN Paris meeting, and many argue that migration must be recognised as a valid form of adaptation.
  3. Using and modifying existing laws to help people move after disasters. Governments also have several existing options that they should use more readily to assist people who need to cross borders after disasters. For example, many countries have offered temporary humanitarian visas to people who have been forced to move by disasters.
  4. Protecting the rights of internally displaced people. Existing international agreements already protect the rights of people who are forced to move internally by disasters or conflict. The key agreement is the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. Governments will increasingly need to act during climate-linked disasters to ensure that the Principles are properly applied.

report_iconBriefing: Protecting the rights of people who move in the context of climate change


report_iconReport: Migration as Adaptation to climate change


For more information contact please email us: alex.randall[at]climateoutreach.org.uk

Download this briefing as a PDF. 

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.

Images: Chrisser (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) from Flcikr

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